Actress (“Arranged,” TV’s “New Girl”) turned actress-writer Zoe Lister-Jones becomes an actress-writer/director with “Band Aid,” a frothy romantic comedy about marriage and miscarriage.
Yeah, it’s dark. It starts sarcastic, bends towards sardonic and ends up downright deep in its observations about couples, the stresses on a relationship and the importance of knowing how to “fight fair.”
Lister-Jones is Anna, a frustrated writer whose early promise is gone with the wind. Now in her 30s, she’s married to Ben (Adam Pally of “Happy Endings”), a slob who works at home, but not much. And he never, ever does the dishes.
Just something else for Anna to fume over as she drives for Uber.
Their fights start out testy, escalate to cutting and stop just shy of mean. Their therapist is fed up with hearing “the same fight, over and over again.”
The deeper strain here is not annoying parents (Susie Essman of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), frustrated ambition or the seven year (irritation) itch, though those all figure into things. It’s that loss that they both experienced but dealt with in vastly incompatible ways.
But a chance musical improv at a child’s birthday party convinces them that music is a means of channeling their fights into something productive.
“What if we turned all our fights into songs?” Ben wants to know. Anna, who played bass in a band back in the day (as did Lister-Jones), is down with turning “our ten biggest fights” into tunes.
“Saturday Night Live/Portlandia” vet Fred Armisen plays their weird, nerdy neighbor. Remember, Fred plays the drums. So whatever “Dave” is doing with all the comically stripper-named sex addicts he “sponsors,” whatever else convinces Anna and Ben his weirdness fits a classic serial killer profile — “He’s 100 percent going to kill us” — they need his help to turn “I’m in No Mood for Your Mood” into a hit.
Lister-Jones builds-in abrupt turns — changes in tone and the “real” subject of the script — which keep you off balance. The withering Inter-Semitic snark-offs of the couple’s arguments are laugh-out-loud funny. Calling Anna a “dish Nazi” over her griping about what he’s what’s left in the sink is blasphemous.
“I come from a LONG line of Holocaust survivors!”
Ben, like us, quite rightly wonders how a “long line” of that description is possible.
The random riffs — party-going lesbians introduce their daughter “Isis” (who had the name first), the cliched cellphone addict “Uber douche” customer (Colin Hanks), the therapist (Retta) announcing “Time’s up, aaaaand, I’m moving to Canada” — sting. The onstage stuff is worth a few giggles, the songs themselves forgettably wry ditties.
But when the guitars are unplugged and the amps turned off, the serious moments have bite, too.
It’s a scruffy, DIY “Let’s call our friends and make a movie” indie comedy, not a laugh-riot, but amusing and cutting and quirky, the sort of film that brightens up the bottom of the bill at film festivals.
Lister-Jones gives it gravitas and the universal wince of recognition among couples that fight. If Hollywood can’t find better roles for her than third banana to Zooey Deschanel, cutting her a tiny check and seeing what movie she can make of it promises to be a lot more entertaining and interesting.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with frank sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen
Credits: Written and drected by Zoe Lister-Jones. An IFC release.
Running time: 1:34