There's an undeniable familiarity at the core of Zoe Lister-Jones's feature directing debut Band Aid, a familiarity that enhances the film's immense emotional resonance and authenticity as we follow the lives of Ben (Adam Pally) and Anna (Lister-Jones), a 30ish married couple increasingly dissatisfied with their individual and marital lives and who are also increasingly caught up in the tornadic like downward spiral of a marital union where even the presence of the other human being is enough to start a fight.
Ben and Anna are kinda sorta at that "no turning back" stage of the relationship, a time when romanticism has turned into reality and when the honeymoon phase has turned into the "Why won't they hurry up an die?" phase. The two are both artists, or perhaps it's more fair to call them former artists, whose talents took them to the edge of success before reality set in and real jobs were demanded. To make matters worse, they've experienced a miscarriage and the grief, largely unspoken, has created an emotional chasm that may or may not be able to be bridged.
Band Aid is the feature film directing debut for Lister-Jones, who's likely most known to American audiences for her work on television's LIfe in Pieces but whose indie cinematic efforts have only offered up glimpses of the big ball o' talent that winds its way through this modestly flawed yet immensely entertaining film.
The crux of the film is simple and the film's emotional core is driven by Anna, whose emotional transparency is vivid without being attention-seeking and rich in its honesty and authenticity. After seeing a therapist in an attempt to save their marriage, Anna comes up with the idea to start a band.
Where is this going?
Hang in there.
The two decide, rather ingeniously, to turn their fights into their music, an idea that is simultaneously inspired and downright horrifying. The beauty and the wisdom of Band Aid is that it doesn't manifest greeting card happy endings but, instead, realistic and compassionate resolutions. Despite the demand of serving as both writer and director, Lister-Jones is a rather remarkable gem here and easily serves up her best performance to date embodying Anna as an immensely grieving woman whose entire being seems to radiate a sort of cesspool of disappointment in virtually every aspect of her life. Lister-Jones plays Anna as a genuine human being, neither overly dramatic nor inappropriately humorous but instead as a woman for whom humor may be a survival skill and whose laughter and tears are both incredibly well-earned.
Pally, also appearing The Little Hours, also gives a tremendous performance as Ben. Pally's Ben obviously, if at times begrudgingly, loves Anna yet is also capable of tremendous self-indulgence. Pally serves up one scene, in particular that gives testimony to his ability to pull off dramatic material even when said drama comes alongside noted comic Susie Essman. Fred Armisen, who also appears in The Little Hours, is a quirky, comic delight as the weirdo next door neighbor who just so happens to also be a drummer. Brooklyn Decker, Retta and Jamie Chung are also solid in supporting turns.
Band Aid isn't a flawless film. It occasionally falls a bit flat and scenes linger a tad too long, though these are relatively minor quibbles for such a delightfully original and satisfying effort. While we haven't exactly heard a lot from Zoe Lister-Jones, here's hoping we start hearing a whole lot more.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic