It’s the height of ambition for one person to attempt to direct, write, produce, and star in a production, and often it’s an ill advised course to take, particularly for a freshman production. However, every once in a great while a new filmmaker is up to the task, as is the case with Zoe Lister-Jones and her film Band Aid, a comedy with enough heart and charm that it’s ridiculously easy to fall in love with its characters, and it manages to be damn funny in the process.
Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a married couple who can’t stop fighting, despite loving one another and relying on each other in times of personal and professional struggle. When the fighting gets to a point where they need another outlet or else their relationship will implode, they decide to start a band to turn their fights into therapeutic songs. They enlist the help of their weird next door neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen, effortlessly pulling off a persona that would feel right at home on an episode of Portlandia) to assist on drums, and their musical exercise starts to expose some of the darker roots of their conflicts.
As indie movie premises go, this is one of the most twee and kitschy that I’ve heard in a while, but Lister-Jones and company pull it off through self-awareness and well-delivered comedy, seemingly relying on equal parts improv and written material to keep the laughs coming. The humor exists somewhere between the casual jokes one would make with friends and the absurd observational comedy of a sketch show—again, Portlandia comes to mind—but never do the jokes feel forced or the characters stretched to accommodate the humor, though at times the film does divert to a cameo merely for the sake of absurdist spectacle. However, none of those quibbles should negate the fact that the film is uproariously funny and is a treat for the strength of its humor alone.
Now, given the premise, a saccharine third act is an inevitability, so if you want the film to retain its hilarious highs for the entire runtime, you’re out of luck. In handling its themes of intra-couple communication, it is perhaps a little too on-the-nose in how it delivers its moral and ethos through a sage matriarch character (played by Susie Essman, so the humor isn’t entirely dead), and it makes generalizations based on gender that feel less universal than the film portrays. Granted, the film bends over backwards at the end of this revelatory speech to point out its own over-generalization and cisgender heteronormativity, but that demonstrates a lack of conviction that undermines the relatability the film otherwise strives for.
But that’s a relatively minor point that in no way undermines the characters we grow to love over the course of the film. Band Aid is a delightful comedy driven by a singular passion and vision from Zoe Lister-Jones, who proves that she is as capable of making something great from both in front of and behind the camera. It’s heartfelt and never unkind, a triumph of exploring conflict with the ones you love most.