In her new film, Band Aid, Zoe Lister-Jones lays it all on the line and wins. Sally Potter: eat your heart out.
Here’s an understatement, making films is all about sweat, blood and tears, and often it doesn’t pan out, especially when there is a single person at the helm wearing all of the hats. Many try, very few succeed, regardless of gender, experience, or budget size because making a rock-solid film is like magic — in the end, it either happens or it doesn’t. Movie goers will be glad to know that magic happened in the making of Band Aid. Credit is due to its versatile writer, producer, director and star, Lister-Jones, whose approach to filmmaking is thoughtful, honest, and teeming with witty humor. The film has a lot going for it: the storyline, the cast, soundtrack, and even the all-female crew, a rarity in and of itself. Assembling an all-female crew was empowerment by design. We’ve come a long way, baby.
In Band Aid, Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a young married couple living in L.A., struggling in their marriage and overwhelmed by life’s curveballs. As with all couples, fighting happens and forces the hipsters to undergo a metamorphosis into adulthood that is painful and at times uncomfortable. As Anna and Ben bicker about dirty dishes, hygiene, and the nagging drip of the kitchen faucet they come to an impasse about where to go next. The solution bubbles to the top one night; they should form a band and make their fights into songs. This helps take some of the edge off while inadvertently ushering the couple into a collaborative creative process through which they can vent. This works up to a point, but things get real as the source of the tangible sorrow emerges, then comes the hard part—deciding whether to stay together or not. There seem to be more reasons to split up than to stay together, and the fights cross into places from which there is no easy or clear way back. However, the script is so well written that Lister-Jones is able to turn it into an exploration for just the opposite, that which is worth fighting for regardless of the odds. Lister-Jones’ use of the faucet dripping throughout the film, and the roof leaking later on is a beautiful illustration of the ongoing struggles that face any relationship.
Lister-Jones assembled a stellar cast for Band Aid, starting with herself and teaming up with Adam Pally. They make a sweet couple and there’s chemistry that goes beyond heteronormative roles and stretches into real friendship, essential for any partnership. Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live, Portlandia) plays Dave, the drummer and eccentric neighbor. Notable secondary roles are delivered by Lister-Jones’ Hannah Simone who plays Cece Parekh in the hit TV series New Girl, and the character of Grace in Band Aid. Another familiar face is that of Brooklyn Decker as Candice. Decker is on the hit show Grace andFrankie, which has a legendary cast comprised of Lily Tomblin, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterson, and Martin Sheen.
The great thing about the Band Aid ensemble is how well they gel and echo the realities of transformation as the individuals transition from one phase of life into another, and as they try to figure out ever-changing social dynamics. Lister-Jones’ writing is generally not heavy-handed. Even in the scene where Ben is talking with his mom (Susie Essman) and Essman is saying it “how it is,” the preachy nature of her delivery is within the character of any mom explaining life to her kid, and also serves as a device by which viewers can see the juxtaposition between life and theory. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when viewers realize that even though Anna is young, smart, and woke, she is still subject to the internalized misogyny that equates a woman’s worth with her ability to reproduce.
The music is real, and catchy. It was recorded live during the filming of the scenes. “I Don’t Want to Fuck You” was the first song written by Lister-Jones. From there she wrote the songs as the narrative unfolded, giving the soundtrack an organic feeling that is tethered to the emotions and plot on the screen. While Armisen and Pally are musicians in their own right, Lister-Jones had to learn to play in order to join the band. The band, known as “The Dirty Dishes” actually dropped “The Dirty Dishes EP” that contains the songs from the film on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play earlier this year. The character development, the music, and the overall execution of the film are music to viewers’ ears.
Beartooth: Monday 7/31 at 8:15 PM