Retrospective Review: “Band Aid”

Year: 2017
Runtime: 91 minutes
Writer/Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Stars: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen 

By Morgan Roberts

What do you do when you and your partner are always arguing?  You form a garage band so you can have fights through music.  

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are well past the honeymoon phase of their marriage. All they do is fight. So, in a last-ditch effort, the pair create a band – roping in their neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen) –  so that they can fight through song. Watching the couple navigate their struggles and hurt through song starts off fun. Their band, The Dirty DIshes, is named after a particular area of contention in their house.  

After a few band practices, they find that framing their arguments in song starts to free up the time that they were fighting to start doing fun things again together.  But while the band at first aids the couple, it becomes apparent that it is merely a Band-Aid over some deep wounds. We also start to see that their fights were over menial things and were merely distractions from their most painful experiences as a couple.

Copyright: IFC Films

“Band Aid” is a really special, underappreciated film. It is clever in its use of a band to provide music therapy for a couple. It is honest in its portrayal of imperfect people in an imperfect relationship having to work on their marriage every day – like real couples do.”

This film feels different from other “rocky relationship” movies.  For starters, while it marked Lister-Jones first time directing a feature film, she has written several films before. The script feels intentional without being predictable. Speaking of intentional, Lister-Jones made this entire film with all-female creatives in the crew.  From hair and make-up to set decorator to cinematographer, Lister-Jones created this incredible set.  

Copyright: IFC Films

From someone just watching the film, you could feel a sense of empowerment in the people putting forth their best work.  To me, it also created an air of equal empathy.  Instead of the film feeling a bit like “The Last Five Years” or “(500) Days of Summer” where there is a clear “villain” in the relationship, both Anna and Ben have really great attributes while having some blatant shortcomings.  There is an empathy afforded to both characters and an attention to their feelings – that’s right, Ben gets to have feelings.

“Lister-Jones made this entire film with all-female creatives in the crew. From hair and make-up to set decorator to cinematographer, Lister-Jones created this incredible set.

Given that the direction and writing allows for the characters to have space, Pally and Lister-Jones were able to take up the space needed for Anna and Ben to be complex, fully-realized people. Both actors gave extremely vulnerable performances, not just in the more serious parts of the film, but in the comedy as well. To me, being vulnerable in a drama tends to come with the territory. But showing hurt and insecurity through comedy is a tricky balance. Pally and Lister-Jones walked that fine line time and again throughout the film, that, upon many a rewatch, I am still finding impactful moments and stellar choices.

Copyright: IFC Films

On top of all of this, the songs are bops. I said it. They are earnest, sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt songs. You could easily find these songs playing on the radio. The soundtrack is a constant writing or work companion for me.  

“Band Aid” is a really special, underappreciated film. It is clever in its use of a band to provide music therapy for a couple. It is honest in its portrayal of imperfect people in an imperfect relationship having to work on their marriage every day – like real couples do. It looks at people and relationships in an honest, empathetic, and loving manner.

Available now via IFC

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