Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Runtime: 90 minutes
Ever since Cassavetes and Bergman tackled their versions of marriage on the rocks in their now excellent dramas Faces and Scenes from a Marriage I’ve been waiting for a movie that at least attempts to approximate what it is that can make a marriage work even when it seems that, from the word go, it’s doomed to fail at every turn. Come have come close, some have slightly missed the mark, and that’s okay. In her first feature film, Zoe Lister-Jones (currently seen in Life in Pieces) basically becomes a one-woman show as director, writer, producer, lead actress, and lead musical performer, in a deceptively comic film about a couple caught in a rut she holds nothing back: Anna (herself) and Ben (the totally gorgeous Adam Pally who looks more and more like Joaquin Phoenix without the excessive brooding looks) are at each other’s throats over who gets to do the dishes. It’s an every day situation that anyone who’s been involved with another person can relate to: that point where even the slightest tick can set off a firestorm of comments that escalate and turn nasty, usually devolving the entire thing into a litany of “fuck yous” that basically erode away at the glue that would keep a couple together.
But before we get into the story, a a little back story gets thrown in about who these two people are. That’s essential, because that is precisely what shapes the fabric of LIster-Jones’ sharp observation about a couple facing the death of their relationship. Ben has had trouble keeping a job due to his personality and is more than happy to stay home and be “wife”. Anna, on the other hand, is a little more complex than that. Once upon a time she had Book Deal (and I’m not being too on the nose when capitalizing this event in Anna’s life). The Book Deal didn’t fall through; she’s been wallowing in barely suppressed self-pity while observing her other friends lead apparently Successful Lives and making ends meet as an Uber driver.
Somewhere down the line both Anna and Ben come across the revelation that perhaps they could use music to fill the void that their angst as a couple is creating. It’s no secret that most successful bands have used their personal turmoil to create some truly memorable songs, and while it seems that Anna and Ben register hit some sharp notes while coming up with some songs in the alternative/punk style, just when they’re about to hit it big, Anna seems to be doing this with the expectation of securing some sort of greater compensation — a record deal, perhaps? — and finally make her mark in the world. Other heretofore issues that had been deftly placed in the background suddenly come to the surface, old pains materialize and bleed raw with emotion, and it seems that these ghosts that will not die might take a toll after all on this adorable couple.
I really don’t want to say more about Band Aid — it is that good, and mind you, this is a movie shot with next to no ‘style’, no flair other than a documentary-like feel, a sense of cinema verite perhaps, and Lister-Jones and Pally’s wonderful, electric performances that almost jump off the screen and sit right next to you. If you want to see what an unscripted marriage looks like, with all its ups and downs, moments of hilarity, awkwardness, sudden desire, sudden hatred for each other, hatred stemming out of deep, unresolved pathos, this is the movie to watch and it’s one of the breakouts for this year in my opinion. Watch for Fred Armisen, Brooklyn Decker, Colin Hanks, and Susie Essmann in small, but scene-stealing roles.
Band Aid is currently playing at the IFC in NYC and will be released on VOD platforms June 9th. Go see it.