BAND AID, dramedy, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts, 2.5 chiles
Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), a childless thirty-something married couple, fight too much. They argue over dishes, sex, and who is more insensitive to the other; they will even throw down over whose method of argument is more annoying. Anna, a failed writer, and Ben, a disillusioned artist, work what they call rent-jobs that make them hate themselves, and they are at a point in their relationship where something must improve or at least change. One afternoon at a friend’s child’s birthday party, stoned and bickering, they pick up toy instruments and play an impromptu improvised song about a recent disagreement. Suddenly, an old spark returns. They decide to start a band in an effort to sing instead of yell about the problems that are making them miserable.
Band Aid, written and directed by Lister-Jones, is a valiant attempt at capturing the pathos of creative types who never achieved commercial success — and therefore any measure of financial security — and who do not want to talk about the future. Anna and Ben are watching their friends start families and fall into careers seemingly without effort, though many of them are pretty bored with their romantic partners — which is, oddly, the movie’s assumed state of happy marriages. Lister-Jones and Pally have excellent chemistry. The scenes in which they fight about inconsequential things, have sex, or play music feel effortless, and they are convincing as a couple that have been together so long that they fight like brother and sister, making up quickly without need for apology.
There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and the music Anna and Ben make is interesting and entertaining, but Band Aid veers wildly between absurdist comedy and predictable high-concept marriage drama, with pacing that could have come out of a Screenwriting 101 textbook. Its stabs at irreverence — in the character of a quirky drummer neighbor played by Fred Armisen — are simultaneously welcome and out of place; it is as if Armisen lives in a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Ben and Anna periodically take part. The movie’s more serious turns are anchored by Lister-Jones, who has the range to play across a demanding emotional spectrum, while Pally falters once the material extends past comedy. Band Aid sets impressive goals for itself, but despite the talent and charm of its stars, the disparate pieces do not quite come together into a psychologically affecting whole. — Jennifer Levin
Modern-day Bickersons: Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally