' ' Cinema Romantico: Band Aid

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Band Aid

As “Band Aid” opens, the union of hipster SoCo couple Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) is disintegrating, this decay initially tied to problems recycled from old sitcoms, like dishes in the sink and a stock un-therapeutic therapy scene where the casting of “Parks and Recreation” stalwart Retta as the therapist  unintentionally emblemizes the small screen sensation. Even so, Anna and Ben’s bickering, while often more comic than nasty, evokes something like a couple that once got off on giving each other shit and now gives each other shit because they are maritally worn out. The hook here, however, is that once our flailing couple sets one of its arguments to music on a whim, a constructive creativity accidentally emerges, evoking a somewhat less commercially viable “Rumours”-era Fleetwood Mac where romantic combustion yields ventilation by tuneage.

This happens at a children’s birthday party where Ben takes up a kiddie guitar and strums a couple chords while Anna adds primitive percussion. This setting is not incidental. If in recent years the phenomena of the Manboy, adult males still beholden to the free care life they led as children, has become synonymous with the cinema, in “Band Aid” Lister-Jones, who wrote and directed (and produced), has concocted something like the Childish Couple, a husband and wife who have tied the knot but are not truly committed to each other or to a self-sustaining lifestyle, preferring to get high and maintain their self-inflicted rut, which means their journey will be as much about emotional growth.

This is meant, I think, to be underlined in the eventual drummer of their band, next-door neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), a recovering sex addict firmly committed to an abstinent lifestyle despite some fetching friends, a subplot suggesting commentary on the sex and drugs of rock ‘n’ roll being rendered sexless that Lister-Jones cannot quite finesse into anything other than a strange outlier to the A plot. Then again, Dave is refreshingly not a forced conduit to Anna and Ben’s change. No, the change in our central couple must come from them, even if Ben does get a kick in the pants from his mom (national treasure Susie Essman), established as grating before we meet her and learn she is something like a sage, explaining that men struggle to see woman, underlined by what Ben terms “the thirty second delay” where idiot males vanish into the vacuousness of their own minds for thirty seconds at a time. This delay is one of the movie’s most pertinent thoughts, but might have done better with a little visual ingenunity as opposed to a brief citation.

What’s more, beyond the thirty second delay “Band Aid” cannot quite figure out how to spur its characters’ transformation from Childish Couple to truly committed aside from a series of timeworn narrative devices such as Ben sprinting to see Anna’s solo acoustic showcase like he is the neglectful father racing to see his daughter’s school play. It left me wondering if traditional resolution was even in the movie’s best interest. “Band Aid” is most enjoyable mid-songs where Anna and Ben trade lyrical scorn with coy smiles, luxuriating in where everything went wrong rather than trying to patch it up, as the camera glides from her to him and back again, evoking similar shots in “Walk the Line” of the immaculate onstage sexual tension between Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Johnny and June wound up together and happy, of course, and “Band Aid”, bless its heart, wants the same for its couple. But then, neither Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham nor Christine McVie and John McVie wound up together in the end. And while there is something commendable in the movie’s willingness to admit the pipe dream aspect of this whole singer-songwriter enterprise, I found myself wishing that Anna and Ben would have followed up their fed-up muses even further, all the way to the crash and burn.

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