IFC FILMS (2017)

 

Director: Zoe Lister-Jones

 

Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Retta, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel, Brooklyn Decker

Music feeds the soul, and it sure can sooth it too.

 

Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Pally) are a married couple. No need to reference ‘happily’ married as this would be a flagrant lie, they argue and bicker over every small detail. A disagreement over unwashed dishes becomes a full-blown argument about Holocaust survivors, she wants to feel loved and he wants sex. Nothing is left untouched by a couple who have become lost and grounded. Anna is a failed writer-turned-Uber driver and Ben is a washed up artist creating corporate logos, i.e. sitting in his pants at home smoking.

 

Something needs to change.

Dragged to a children’s birthday party, Anna and Ben bring their lack of social magnetism as they mingle with their more successful friends and their families. Only a sneaky joint can relax them in the situation and it isn’t until they find a child’s guitar and microphone that they begin to loosen and bond over improvised lyrics and music. That jam provides the catalyst for saving their relationship – form a band and sing about their arguments, as opposed to…actually arguing.

 

Enlisting cocoa-loving-sex-addict-neighbour Dave (Armisen) on drums, the initial sessions prove successful in reigniting Anna and Ben’s strained relationship, and in creating garage rock ditties with such titles as “Love Is Lying” and “I Don’t Wanna Fuck You”. However, the euphoria only masks the horrific underlying issues surrounding their relationships and the emotions they have been crudely repressing.

 

Directed, written, produced by and starring Zoe Lister-Jones, she was a busy lady in creating her debut movie. Not content with simply crafting the movie, she also collaborated on the original songs used in the movie. I think that’s called a labour of love. Band Aid is an eccentric indie feeling movie dealing with themes of creation and healing (like using a band aid, ya dig?) wrapped up in a musical cocoon. It’s first and foremost a comedy but its subtext deals with heavier issues that imbue a sense of sadness to proceedings. The comedy hits more times than not and is mainly focused around the arguments, lack of sex and disagreements Anna and Ben face and of course, the songs and lyrics they create together – if you listen closely you can hear the sound of a thousand couples nodding in agreement to the beats. Further comedy comes from deadpan neighbour Dave, his performance in stark contrast to the rest of the cast as he blankly cuts through the hippy nature with a thousand mile stare.

 

The lead pair share great chemistry together (vital for the success of the movie) and their toxic/loving/strained/close relationship feels genuine at all times. Both Lister-Jones and Pally deliver fine performances that are in parts endearing and other parts sympathetic. Anna clings to the memory of her failed book deal and it hangs over her as she attempts to keep the relationship alive in a faux-upbeat manner – whilst watching her less driven friends climb the ladder of success. Ben prefers the lazy life, spending the majority of it eating cereal in his underwear and not cleaning dishes and fixing leaks, though his motivations aren’t malicious, he just prefers a simple life. Resigned to spending their lives in their cramped apartment with fading dreams, they spend the vast majority of their time under a cloud of arguing and misery. The movies key scene halfway through regarding Anna’s “failures” as a woman is blisteringly well acted by both and helps set up the second half of the movie.

 

The music created by the couple shares the same loose feeling as the movie itself. They’re simple, catchy and have an effortless lounge-indie feel. Far removed from the polished offerings of 2016’s Sing Street, these are intimate and fun.

 

The movie stumbles at times in its delivery, the subtext at times comes across as superficial and the arguments become slightly repetitive however the small issues these cause are masked by the performances and authenticity within them. The movies abrupt ending works well as a new beginning for the pair and where they may go next.

 

Band Aid is ultimately a refreshing number that crams in comedy, drama and the definition of gender struggles. Wonderfully acted and delivered, it’ll put a smile on your face and provide an urge to write songs to revitalise your failing relationship. Or to get laid. Either way, watch it.

August 30th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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