Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen
Let’s just call Zoe Lister-Jones ‘ZLJ’; it saves time and it’s super cool. So, ZLJ directs, writes, and stars in Band Aid, a film that is completely her and completely indie. She’s a budding indie darling herself, having acted in more than a few, written a couple, but never tried her hand at directing. She takes on every job in her latest project, and the result is as you might expect; mixed. The pressure placed upon someone who is attempting to single-handedly sculpt a feature film cannot be overstated, and ZLJ might have sunk a bit under the weight. But you gotta get your feet wet some time, she doesn’t founder completely, and I think there is reason to expect that she might be back and better than ever in the not-too-distant future.
As Bob Wiley would say, “Simply put; I have problems.” In this case, Anna and Ben have problems, but at least they’re as honest about it as Bob, and at least they know that they’ll have to face their issues before their issues completely ruin their marriage. Anna and Ben fight constantly, and even though sometimes the fights turn into jokes, that’s not always the case, and it is probably always unhealthy, either way. A recent traumatic event has only made things worse, made the bickering constant, and forced down some real emotions that desperately need to come up for air. The dishes, the nagging, the sex, the future; there really isn’t anything that this couple has figured out, and it’s about to be the end of their relationship.
That is, until they stumble upon a brand new mode of therapy that seems to have an immediate benefit; music. No, it’s not recommended by a therapist, the pair simply pull out their old guitars one day, rock out in the garage, and realize that they can still have a good time together without arguing. Actually, what’s even more helpful is that they start turning their fights into songs, belting out their rage and highlighting their petty differences until they become funny. At the same time, their love grows stronger as they realize how little their squabbles matter. But not all problems are small, and they’ll still have to face their larger issues head on, without gimmicks and without turning tail to run.
ZLJ exhibits more than competence as a director, writer, and star in Band Aid, though perhaps not excelling at any one role enough to be called ‘great’. Her direction is simple, she lets the characters and the story tell themselves. Her writing is solid, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments followed up by poignant thoughts. And her acting is pretty good, showing off a Zoe Kazan 2.0 sort of vibe, but not in a way that makes you want to scream ‘copy’. She’s a talented woman, can take on all these roles, deserves multiple shots after this solid effort, I just wouldn’t go so far as to say that the film itself was a complete success. Bravo for making it happen, and almost entirely on her own, but I’m interested to see how her next project goes.
Band Aid relies a little too heavily on the stereotypes surrounding marriage to be considered original/thoughtful/brilliant. There are times that the actors are just reproducing the most commonly held beliefs, they aren’t creating new content all their own. Men are lazy, women are uptight, sex is only rarely pleasurable for both parties; we’ve moved past this, right? The relationship between Anna and Ben is a vehicle, I get that, so it won’t be perfectly believable. But I think ZLJ could have written in a bit more variety, instead of assuming that every love life is the same. Still, that’s not a point every audience member will be bothered by, and there’s enough to enjoy that you might just choose to overlook it. Pally is well cast, Armisen is a welcome addition, the comedy throughout is clever, and the story has plenty to say that’s both important and relevant. I look forward to more from this talented filmmaker, because I think she has more to offer.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (Widescreen), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is a step above your normal indie DVD, a step below your standard HD action film. The color and clarity are fine, but there’s no reason to get a movie like this on anything other than the cheapest possible format; there isn’t anything to gain from watching a dramedy of this style in high definition.
Audi0 – The disc was done in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio surround, with an option of 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio stereo. Subtitles are available in English and in Spanish. That’s it for the audio, and there isn’t a reason to hear this film in HD either, even though there is a ton of music showcased throughout. The soundtrack is pretty cool, clever songs and rocky beats, but they definitely won’t blow your mind or stay with you after turning off the TV.
Extras – There are a few special features on the Blu-ray if you’re thirsty for more. A music video is available, 6 minutes of comedy and a song performance. There are seven deleted scenes, a total of 10 minutes of bonus footage. You can watch a few outtakes, 3 minutes total. And the last extra is a theatrical trailer for the film.
Recommended. Band Aid is a peek at the potential of an up-and-coming artist, a voice that I hope to hear more from in the future. ZLJ is a great filmmaker in the works, though she hasn’t arrived there quite yet. She filled her film with too many cliches and easy choices, clinging to standard formulas too often. That’s enough to get us to chuckle a few times, and her chemistry with Pally and Armisen was strong enough to earn some outright laughs, but the story reverted back to stereotypes too frequently for my to stand up and applaud. For a Blu-ray disc, the video, audio, and extras were just OK; you don’t need to watch this movie in this format. But as an overall experience, Band Aid is a cool, quirky, indie winner, it just doesn’t reach the heights that you can tell are possible; hopefully we’ll see that level the next time out.
☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay