'Band Aid' movie review: Songs in the key of marital discord
Don't be fooled by the cute "troubled couple turn their marital blowouts into songs" premise - "Band Aid" (playing in select cities June 30) has more dramatic depth than it lets on.
In short: Anna and Ben (Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally) endure a strained marriage where they are constantly fighting about everything - so they turn to the only logical solution: turning their arguments into songs and start a band. Fred Armisen, Susie Essman and Hannah Simone also star.
Writer-director-star Lister-Jones manages the feat of grounding a somewhat high-concept indie flick in the mire of an uncomfortably strained relationship. The fights - sometimes over the pettiest of things, such as the dishes not being cleaned - ring painfully true. The film takes an even-handed stance, never clearly taking on character's side over the other - which succeeds making the arguments that much more contentious and stressful. This agnostic approach doesn't force the audience to take a side, allowing the genuine irritation they have for each other to define their embittered arguments. It's not what they are arguing about, it's how fundamentally annoyed they are with each other -- and how they have each ignored a dark part of their marriage that remains unspoken and unresolved.
This authenticity provides a strong foundation for the singing aspect of the film to flourish. The unpolished and jam session feel to the songs make the verses feel more personal and cathartic. The entertaining and great songs work because Lister-Jones has established how far Anna and Ben's marriage has deteriorated.
While the film works whenever Anna and Ben are airing out their grievances to each other, "Band Aid" suffers from overly quirky banter that threatens to undermine the film's tone. The film gets a little too cute with its dialogue in the scenes that don't particularly advance Anna and Ben's relationship. These witty scenes don't quite mesh well with either the intensely antagonistic marital blowouts or the lighter, but still emotionally grounded, duets. The exchanges are amusing, but they don't add to the movie in a significant manner - it's clearly an attempt to make expository scenes more enjoyable. A slightly more confident version of this film wouldn't need the extraneous quirk.
A movie about a couple singing their marital gripes at each other could have turned out cheesy or thin, but Lister-Jones has crafted a heartfelt, wise and authentic drama.
Final verdict: A sharp, witty script and great chemistry between its lead stars keep this this dramedy humming along. "Band Aid" is at its best when the main characters are baring their souls (either on stage or in each other's faces).
"Band Aid" screened during the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival and opens in additional cities June 30. This comedy is not rated and has a running time of 94 minutes.