Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Retta, Hannah Simone, Brooklyn Decker, Ravi Patel
Running Time: 1:31
Release Date: 6/2/17 (limited); 6/16/17 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | June 15, 2017
The fighting begins with something small and escalates. It's a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink that's the catalyst for the first argument between the married couple at the heart of Band Aid. It's appropriate, because, just like the stuff that the couple fight about, that pile of dishes didn't get that way overnight. It has been growing for a while, and it doesn't help that the husband has been using the glass at the top of the stack over and over again幼leaning it, drinking from it, putting it right back where it had been sitting in the sink.
There's an easy enough solution, of course, but the dishes have become a symbol for the couple. That's not meant in a way to suggest that writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones is using the dirty dishes as a metaphor for the chaos of this couple's relationship容ven though it does work as one. No, it's something upon which this couple has assigned metaphorical significance, either intentionally or subconsciously. For the husband, it's a passive-aggressive way of pointing out that most of the mess in the sink belongs to his wife, who doesn't do her part of fixing the problem. For the wife, it's a constant confirmation of what she suspects about her husband葉hat he's lazy and unproductive in a way that makes him close to useless.
It's a stalemate. Neither will wash the dishes, lest they become the loser in this standoff. What they don't understand is that, if one of them did clean the dishes, he or she would be proving the other's assumptions wrong. Maybe that's just the breakthrough they need. Plus, the dishes would be clean, which is always a good thing.
The fights between Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) continue, though. They start small用oking and prodding things, such as who's responsible for the dishes. They become a bit absurd, since they both have relatively solid senses of humor, despite the triviality of the inciting factor for the fight (They both know they're going overboard when the topic of dirty dishes goes to, say, the Holocaust, but it's clearly a tactic to get under each other's skin). After that, the arguments get nasty用ersonal insults and angry swearing that go around and around until they're both exhausted from the experience.
This should be uncomfortable to witness, and to a degree, it is, especially when, near the end of the couple's first fight, we realize that both parties are deathly serious in their anger. Lister-Jones screenplay does this tonal trick a few times, obviously, since a significant portion of the early parts of the film are about observing how these characters get from a one to a 10 on the scale of genuine fury in a short period of time. The trick is to get us involved by way of understanding the fundamental disagreement, recognize the absurdity of it, and sympathize with both parties, because Anna and Ben seem to comprehend that absurdity, as well. They're funny people, and we catch a glimmer of what they must have been like as a couple in the past.
The problem goes much deeper than the dishes or any other household chore容ven deeper than the fact that both of them are in contract jobs that make them miserable, because the work is a constant reminder of how their dreams never came to be (Hers was to be a writer, and his was to be an artist). Lister-Jones doesn't quite make it a secret (We can gather the truth from the way they hide from all the happy parents at a birthday party for Anna's goddaughter), although her script is wise enough to realize that neither of these characters wants to talk about it.
The hook for the story is that Ben suggests the two try to work through their anger issues by forming a band (Their couples' therapist announces, with no minor joy, that she's moving to Canada before their next session). They'll put their fights into the form of songs. He'll play guitar, and Anna will be on the bass. For percussion, they enlist their weird next-door neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), whose working through issues of his own (The scene revealing these problems is too funny to even hint at here, lest the surprise be spoiled). The songs, of course, are about dishes, irritating personality quirks, and infrequent sex. They're enjoyable, too, and even though it's obvious that the music and lyrics have been arranged beforehand, Lister-Jones and Pally do a good job making them come across like improvised ditties.
The film is a delicate act of balance. It's funny about a deteriorating marriage, without ever poking fun at either of the characters or the sincere frustration they have with each other. It's upbeat and, beneath the surface, hopeful, but it doesn't treat the situation in a mawkish way (Some of the later observations about gender roles and expectations might reach a bit too far in attempting to explain the underlying tension between the couple). The story eventually uncovers the grief driving these fights, over a loss that neither has been able to process on their own (because neither knows how) or with each other (because they're too mad at themselves as individuals to be open to anyone else). In the process, the film also uncovers a real tenderness and sensitivity about the subject.
Band Aid is ultimately a study of grief played in a major key, even though it might not seem that way from the early anger and the later subject matter. The film is, after all, a comedy, and it's a warm-hearted, smart, and sympathetic one at that.
Copyright ｩ 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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