By: Jenna Zine (Two Beers) –
When Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben’s (Adam Pally) therapist abruptly quits, the couple opts to reckon with their marital problems by starting a band.
“It’s not fighting if it’s singing, right?” (photo credit)
The plot centers around Anna and Ben’s fight-fueled relationship as they struggle to find equilibrium in their lives. Inspiration to start a band strikes when they create an impromptu song at a toddler’s birthday party. Soon they’re cleaning out their garage to make room for a practice space and putting their arguments to lyrics. Through this, they find their stressful connection lightening as they work on their improvised tunes. They pick up a drummer along the way – their awkward neighbor, Dave (the hilariously droll Fred Armisen), who also happens to be a recovering sex addict. (Armisen provides a large amount of comic relief, as expected, but also shines as a band member. He’s served as a drummer for numerous groups in real life, and his solo will blow you away.)
There’re also a cavalcade of star cameos and supporting roles to add to the fun, including Colin Hanks and Chris D’Elia as annoying Uber customers (Anna is a driver), Brooklyn Decker and Hannah Simone as Anna’s gorgeous friends, Jamie Chung and Erinn Hayes as Dave’s fellow recovering sex addicts, plus spots from Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Ravi Patel (Meet The Patels), Retta (Parks & Rec), and Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy).
Zoe Lister-Jones is the MVP of this project, acting as producer, writer, director (this is her directorial debut), and lead character in this lovely film. (You may know Lister-Jones from her numerous television roles, including her current spot on Life In Pieces, but she also has deep ties to the indie film community. She and her husband, Daryl Wein, also a filmmaker and actor, have collaborated on Breaking Upwards, Lola Versus, and Consumed.) The addition of the always likeable Adam Pally (Happy Endings, The Mindy Project, Making History) makes for a palpable chemistry that drives the movie. The snappy dialogue provides for many laugh out loud, yet make you think moments. (“Why are you taking muscle relaxants? You barely have any muscles.”)
The only issue I had with the film was, ironically, the great casting. Anna and Ben are so adorable together that I had trouble figuring out what the problem was. Their fights didn’t seem that explosive or problematic – I was thrown when a visit to their counselor resulted in the therapist telling them they were “clearly in a lot of pain.” Really? It seems like they were having a blast to me! They represent the proverbial “perfect couple” – naturally attuned to one another as partners and best friends who revel in each other’s company.
Yes, they have the normal irritants of any couple – who does the most chores, money issues, tension with the in-laws, how often to have sex, how to retire subjects long-term companions revisit too often, and so on. But they also smoke loads of weed, make a trip to the beach to take mushrooms, and collapse in giggles whenever they have a chance. They’re both wildly attractive, and attracted to one another. They have a nice home and great friends. Their careers aren’t where either one of them wish to be, but neither are stuck in hopeless dead ends. (As my friend said, “They live in L.A., so… I guess this is their version of failure?”) It smacks of heteronormative white people problems. Of course a deeper issue is revealed late into the film. I won’t spoil it here, and it is nothing to make light of – but it’s something the couple is capable of handling, once they finally confront their grief.
“Look at us – we’re arguing! No, really!” (photo credit)
The upswing of this delightful pairing is a wholly watchable and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The plot could’ve been excruciating to sit through in the hands of the wrong people, but Lister-Jones and Pally make you care about these hot people who are having a blip in otherwise fantastic lives.
Band Aid (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Anna & Ben do drugs. And maybe do a few of your own.
Take a Drink: for every “fight” song they croon. (In addition to the script, Zoe also co-wrote the lyrics!)
Do a Shot: as a special shout-out to Zoe, who hired an all-female crew – the first in feature-length film history!
Do a Shot: when Fred Armisen’s character shows up at the door in leather “pajamas.”
Do a Shot: when Anna flaps a microphone against Ben’s face like it’s a penis while at an open mic, and then tries to deep throat said microphone!
There is a brief, and very cute, scene at the top of the credits – but no need to stay to the very last frame.