Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, Band Aid revolves around Anna (Lister Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), a couple who believes in bottling up their emotions rather than communicating. Anna is a writer who had a book deal fall through, and Ben is a freelance graphic designer who just smokes weed and lies on the couch all day. Both of these problems lead to massive fights that almost lead to breaking up. As a last ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to start a band, where all of their songs are composed of their arguments. It’s a shaky premise at first, but thanks to their eccentric neighbor/drummer/sex addict, Dave (Fred Armisen), they manage to become a somewhat serious group.
The songs (written by Lister-Jones and Kyle Forrester) are catchy and funny but lack a real presence in the film. They’re mainly used as a plot device to illustrate Anna and Ben’s problems than to provide actual musical numbers. It felt like Lister-Jones missed an opportunity to create hilariously meta numbers similar to Crazy Ex Girlfriend or Flight of the Concords. Instead, the songs symbolize the communication and effort it takes to keep a relationship going even if everything seems to go wrong.
Pally and Lister-Jones have an improvisational chemistry that helps in both the comedic and dramatic situations. They can cry in each other’s arms and say Holocaust jokes to each other at the same time, and it wouldn’t feel artificial. Lister-Jones keeps both of these characters grounded and realistic. Ben and Anna’s marriage struggles may ring true in many relationships but so does their triumphant effort to make it work.
In addition to using an all-female film crew, Lister-Jones successfully instills the female perspective in her project. She deals with serious issues such as miscarriages and struggles of being a 30-something woman very intimately. On the surface, it may seem like sentimental fluff, but it’s in no way emotionally manipulative. She uses various close-ups on Anna’s face to showcase her struggle in keeping this mental wall up until it finally crashes on her. One scene that stuck with me was when Ben was trying to make Anna “sing” about her miscarriage as a way for emotional release. While sobbing, she sings, “I failed as a woman.” The film was essentially building up to this moment, and Lister-Jones writes it in such a powerful and nonjudgmental way.
At its core, Band Aid is a traditional romantic comedy. It has the sex jokes, the failed writer careers, and a house way too fancy for a freelance income. Despite that, Band Aid still has enough heart to keep you invested in the plot. The story has its fair share of laughs, but it doesn’t hold back with its emotional punches. Don’t expect a wicked soundtrack but possibly expect a rise in the “raging couples” musical genre.