Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a couple whose marriage is in need of such repair, that saying it is merely "on the rocks" would be a gentle appetizer to the real discussion. Their fights have turned into superfights, and the exhausting process has not only deprived them of oxygen, but whittled down their patience. Therapy didn't work, the cool "movie best friends" can't swoop into save the day, and it's near the end. She had a big book deal go down the drain, and Ben can't seem to take a job as seriously as his passion to be an artist.
In a last ditch effort to mend their broken relationship, the couple picks up a guitar and bass to sing their problems out. That's right-Anna and Ben form a band, acquiring the services of their quiet yet quirky neighbor with a sex addiction and hot best friends, Dave (Fred Armisen), to complete the band. With Dave on the drums, Anna and Ben take center stage at the mics and aim to heal their troubles.
Welcome to Band Aid, a movie that wisely taps into the uncomfortable nature of aged love.
Lister-Jones also wrote and directed this feature, and initially the hipster charms were overpowering and had me turning away or hoping for something fresh or relatable. Then, about 45 minutes into the movie, as Anna and Ben are writing songs about the things they can't stand about each other, a small plot twist flips the film on its head, and pulls the rug out from under the audience. That is where this film hit another level, providing a backbone to the kick of this story.
This particular twist is one I will not divulge, but will admit that it makes you care deeply about these characters, and turns them into well-rounded messy people who deal with things in a realistic matter. The thing I loved the most about this film is it refused to acquire repetitive devices to solve its second and third acts. Everything was so well laid out by the one hour mark that you either cared about what was happening, or checked out a long time ago.
Like the love between two young people trying to be the best versions of themselves, Band Aid asks the viewer to endure a bit of storytelling turbulence in order to get the most out of the experience. Have we seen an Anna and Ben like this before in film? Sure, but Lister-Jones' screenplay injects a wicked amount of personality and flavor into the dialogue that it feels refreshing and new. Where else can you hear a man compare the love of Papa Johns pizza to sex?
The musical element always helps a seemingly simple story. Think about Once and Begin Again, where songs helped turn someone's life around, and in the process created a devoted audience of adoration from moviegoers. Band Aid is the B-side version of that maneuver, a quiet little film with a ton of heart and enough character to make you care whether Anna and Ben stay together.
In order to attach yourself to this story, you need good actors leading the way. Lister-Jones and Pally have great chemistry as the titular couple at large, and the actors don't have to overplay anything since the music is lending a helping hand. Lister-Jones initially reminded me of Zooey Deschanel's timeless look mixed with Emma Stone's vulnerability, but really grew into the role of a woman who can't stop fighting herself long enough to fight with her spouse. That's not easy to play, but she handles it. Pally gives Ben a few extra layers of mystery that don't come out until the latter stages.
The supporting cast does a good job, without getting in the way of the stars and the story. Susie Essman delivers one of the most honest and captivating monologues about the womanly struggle, and Hannah Simone doesn't just portray the usual best friend of the heroine, instead creating someone that could be sitting next to you in the theater. Armisen's quirks can be jarring at times, but here there's just the right amount of Fred to go around.
Watching Band Aid made me think about my own marriage, and how hard it is to battle through certain problems without rupturing something so sacred. When a movie can make someone turn the camera on their own life, the job was done. In a cinema dominated by mummies, superheroes, and robotic heroes, a small sweet tale about love is quite a refreshing blend to drink up. As Anna herself admits towards the end, writing about love is hard, because it has been done so many times. This movie manages to take something familiar and old, and make it seem young again.
If Transformers wears you down and animated cars don't satisfy your cinematic hunger, give Band Aid a try. Without manipulating your feelings, it will find a way to tap into your emotions, and get you thinking about things while producing a few good songs to leave the theater humming along to.