Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
We’ve all seen them: the bickering married couple arguing over nothing. Some of us (cough, cough) have been “that couple.” It’s super uncomfortable, but goes with the territory. When you’re married, arguments start over essentially nothing – usually sparked by who is or is not saddled with the mundane “honey-do” chores. What’s of utmost importance is finding forgiveness in the resolve. Writer-Director Zoe Lister-Jones’ poignant comedy BAND AID is alarmingly true to the married experience, capturing the sweet and sour sides, ultimately giving us a film about marital discord that strikes all the right chords.
Married couple Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) cannot stop fighting. They fight about everything: dirty dishes, failed career paths, his mother’s intrusiveness, the political correctness of the word “retarded,” etcetera, etcetera. Their couples counselor (Retta) can’t even deal with them – so much so she’s abandoning them. Their pals tolerate it. Left to their own devices, specifically smoking pot to numb their angst and neurosis, they are on clear path towards divorce. It’s not until they pick up a couple of plastic toy instruments and start singing their feelings do they realize a potential lifeline. Their catchy AF melodies, insightful lyrics and sweet beats, provided by neighbor drummer/ former sex addict Dave (Fred Armisen), slap a temporary band aid on their psychological wounds. But, as Taylor Swift has taught us, “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.” The conjoined grief they’ve suffered – a traumatic event neither care to address – begins bleeding once again.
Pardon the pun, but the humor here cuts deep. It’s so on point that it’s not even funny – which, believe it or not, is a compliment. An awkward marital coitus sequence with Anna running hot and cold is a hilarious truth bomb, as she likens her libido to a shop with “shop closed” sign hanging in the window. Armisen’s practically trademark brand of off-beat weirdo blends well with Lister-Jones’ perfect, witty quips. The brilliance of one scene specifically is that it doesn’t fully address the elephant in the room – Dave’s leather PJ’s. Sure, there are a few indulgent moments (like when Anna gets all gussied up to rage out), but those are forgivable as so much good grace has been built up. Traditionally finessed story beats are transformed into earned emotional moments.
Lister-Jones speaks to the universal in marital relationships with relative ease. By holding a mirror up to one couple, it reflects all humanity – people ensconced in coupledom or not. We can all relate to career disappointments and stagnation. Jealousies over others’ major life events can feel all-encompassing. Pain and grief are portrayed with staggering compassion and authority. It provides a healthy, helpful manual towards healing. The songs written by Lister-Jones and Kyle Forester, who previously collaborated on BREAKING UPWARDS, are undoubtedly catchy and grab onto feel-good endorphins.
What’s also noteworthy is Lister-Jones’ team behind the camera. She’s assembled a gaggle of talented women as her filmmaking support system. And not just a few women – it’s a crew of all women. This is the example to point to when we hear studios say it’s too difficult or impossible to accomplish. It’s commendable, maybe even monumental, that Lister-Jones is changing the movie-making landscape admirably from the inside.
“Married people arguing” is one of my favorite subgenres – it includes films like SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, BLUE VALENTINE and BY THE SEA. What puts BAND AID on the same level is that it imparts a lightness and a hopeful uptick without the heavy, dramatic pretense.
BAND AID opens in limited release in New York and Los Angeles on June 2.