Saturday, June 03, 2017

Independent Film Festival Boston 2017.08: Band Aid

Doing a quick skip to the end for IFFBoston postings because closing night film Band Aid is opening in some cities this weekend. Not Boston - it kind of looks like the festival was it, between what looks like a quick turnaround to VOD and the Kendall being short-screened right now. Maybe not a huge shame, although it underlines how it can be easier for Chinese romantic comedies to play here than American ones.


Left to right, writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones, producer Natalia Anderson, and Boston Globe "Love Letters" columnist Meredith Goldstein. Nothing against her, but I'm not sure what unique expertise she brought to moderating this Q&A, but I tend to wonder that about guest moderators anyway (and I don't recall the Globe being listed as a sponsor for the other explanation). But, hey, it was the last night, Brian, Nancy, and everyone else was probably wiped, so why not bring a fresh mic in?

The most interesting nugget to come out of the Q&A is that the film had an all-woman crew, which is pretty unusual but kind of fun to note, especially since the film is not as entirely about female-specific issues as the hypothetical film that does that, and while I (being a guy) tend to feel kind of odd about that, I do hope that the line on their résumé that they may not have had otherwise as producers perhaps follow unconscious biases helps them in the future.

The other fun question was that, yes, she and Adam Pally were going to do some shows as part of the promotion for the movie and the songs would be available on BandCamp (although I couldn't find it, not remembering the band name from the movie). Maybe a novelty that wears off quickly, but fun, which perhaps puts it in line with the film as a whole.

Band Aid

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 May 2017 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston, DCP)

Zoe Lister-Jones has kind of a cute idea for a movie, and for the most part manages to get it to 90 minutes without having to load too much extra into it. It can be kind of a near thing; it's a fair number of quick hits at easy targets and not a whole lot of insight when the time comes to get serious, so a lot winds up riding on how its jokes play for the audience. But that is ever the way with comedies, and this one hits more often than it misses.

It's about Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), married a while, feeling like they've underachieved career-wise, and getting to the point where it's kind of annoying that the only time they ever see their friends is at baby showers and kids' birthday parties, and that they aren't throwing those is a source of some tension. So they fight a lot. After goofing around with toy instruments at one of those parties, Ben finds his old guitar in the garage, Anna reminds him that she plays bass, and they decide to make songs out of all their fights, to get them out there and not directed at each other. It goes well enough to form a band with weird neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen) on drums, but they can't outrun the fact that, even if they've been making a game of it, they still clearly have problems.

Writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones doesn't get cute about building up to the movie's one-sentence description, nor does she drift far from it; at one point Anna says "we should make our fights into songs and sing them" and then the meat of the movie is them making songs about their fights and singing them. And even if these fights are often the staples of relationship-based stand-up comedy, the presentation is just different enough to make the punchlines work a little better and the point of view is just skewed enough in some cases to make a weird gag funny. That straightforward mission statement sometimes seems like it can lead to missed opportunities and misjudging how funny the other stuff is - Anna's rideshare fares seem like they'd work better as a running gag than a quick montage to illustrate how much her doing this rather than writing for a TV show like she should sucks (both spouses often seem to have only-in-Hollywood career issues), and there are also a fair number of drug gags that seem to operate on the assumption that watching people who are high is inherently funny as opposed to something that gets old fast..

Full review on EFC.

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