Zoe Lister-Jones, known for her roles in “New Girl” and “Life in Pieces,” demonstrates her versatility as a leading actress, writer and director with “Band Aid.” It’s a charming little indie picture that offers enough wit and heart to overcome its more pedestrian elements.
A married couple, Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), are the center of the film. We drop into a tumultuous period in their lives when they can’t go a day without screaming at one another. Their slings and arrows are laugh-out-loud funny from the get go. The energy between Lister-Jones and Pally gives the movie immediacy.
One of the film’s best exchanges happens in the first few minutes: “I come from a long line of Holocaust survivors,” Anna declares. “How could there be a long line of Holocaust survivors?” Ben retorts.
Anna and Ben’s troubles have their roots in a recent traumatic event. Their failures to achieve their dreams – Anna as a writer and Ben as an artist – only exacerbate their frustrations even further.
The two seem hopeless until they jam with toy instruments at a child’s birthday party, where it turns out they don’t sound too shabby.
Realizing they can bond over their love of making music, Anna dusts off her bass and Ben breaks out his guitar. Along with their quirky neighbor, a recovering sex addict named Dave (played by a woefully underused Fred Armisen), the couple write songs based on their fights.
The songs in “Band Aid” aren’t great, but they don’t have to be. In fact, the untrained nature of the music contributes to the movie’s likability. The success of the band, dubbed The Dirty Dishes, is not the couple’s primary purpose – they just want to heal themselves. Singing gives Anna and Ben an outlet to pour out their feelings. For Anna, it’s a way to avoid succumbing to her depression and losing control of her emotions. For Ben, it’s a way to express himself without feeling weak.
Eventually, the conflicts of the past dampen the band’s therapeutic effects, and Anna and Ben’s lingering issues emerge to the forefront of the story. Lister-Jones uses the characters to explore the differences between how men and women grieve. She contrasts Ben’s stoicism with Anna’s anxiety, mining drama from the couple’s inability to connect after a devastating loss. In the process, Lister-Jones earns her place as the film’s heart, displaying excellent range and a good sense for comedic timing.
“Band Aid” slows down as the end draws near. Its reflections on the process of moving on are poignant, but slightly mishandled. One character practically explains the entire message of the movie in a direct and clunky monologue that is worlds away from opening act’s sharp, crass dialogue.
The film also suffers from the occasional tonal mismatch. Most of the film is realistic in its portrayal of romantic love, but Dave and the pair of hot women he calls his “best friends” border on too cartoony. They are not bad characters; they just don’t jive with the rest of the movie.
All in all, Lister-Jones’ debut directorial feature should invite her some well-deserved attention. “Band Aid” portends promising things in her future.
Running Time: 93 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Score: 4/5 stars