Band Aid

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 2, 2017

'Band Aid'
'Band Aid'  

Here's a new twist on the mumblecore genre: A young married couple, wrestling with grief, who can't stop quarreling -- but who then translate their gripes into music and lyrics as a form of improvised couples therapy.

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones, who writes, directs, produces, and co-authors the songs, as well as starring) is strong, smart, and self-possessed -- every bit the equal, if not more, of Ben (Adam Pally), her lovable, underemployed lunk of a husband. Their arguments center around the usual stupid stuff: He won't do the dishes, and he's only half heartedly making a go at his career as a graphic designer; she's an Uber driver (Colin Hanks fetches up in a cameo as a "douche" who rides in her car for a brief scene) who brings every disappointment back to a book deal that failed to get off the ground. Their problems are recognizably rooted in the real world in a way their living situation is not; somehow, despite their work situation, they manage to live in a large house with its own garage, which turns out to be perfect as a rehearsal space.

Once they hit on singing, rather than screaming, their respective points of view, the two start having fun for the first time in far too long. Realizing they need a drummer to accompany their two-guitar gig, they turn to their oddball neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), though not without some apprehension. "He's going to murder us for sure," they worry at one point, before quipping that he's a "lotion-in-the-basket type." They need not fret; Dave's not a killer, he's just a sex addict who's now serving as sponsor for a pair of ex-strippers-slash-recovering nymphomaniacs. Snuggling, not bludgeoning, turns out to be Dave's preferred form of attack.

It takes Anna and Ben a while to get the hang of it, but before long the two are drawing crowds at local venues, airing their grievances with a Mars versus Venus zeal that has women nodding along while their guys listen with appreciative attention. But they're enjoying themselves so much (and enjoying each other once more, into the bargain) that they have to wonder what they're going to do for material if they stop fighting?

The film resorts for a while to the quest for new sources of inspiration, including a dalliance with mushrooms and a quick drop-in at a drum circle. But even as the plot moves in predicable ways, the film's emotional progress proceeds with a clever, unobtrusive logic, peeling the layers off both Anna and Ben as though they were a couple of onions. Yes, the process is a little pungent at times; yes, it can even bring a tear to your eye. The dialogue and scene structure comes across as improv in style, but when Anna and Ben finally stop dancing around the crux of their problems and face it head on -- in a gentle, reluctant song -- the moment is unexpectedly powerful and cathartic.

Not that it solves all their problems. More fighting, and an ugly admission that leads them to the brink of a breakup, are yet in store. But for that one brilliantly played moment of truth -- and many small moments of genuine charm that are buoyed by the chemistry between Lister-Jones and Pally -- you stick around to see how it all works out. The spoiler-free answer: Not with a neat ribbon, I'm glad to report, but with a perfect visual metaphor.

Some movies think they have all the answers. This one, more sensibly, settles for asking the right questions.


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.