Band Aid, B
Rated R, 91 minutes
They say that music has a way of bringing people together, I guess that applies to keeping marriages together too, which is the subject of the familiar but charming indie comedy about a couple who use music as a form of therapy to help their marriage. It tends to meander and wear its quirkiness on its sleeve, but it also provides some genuinely funny moments courtesy of a terrific cast and original songs.
Anna ("Life in Pieces'" Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Palley of "Happy Endings") can't stop fighting. Advised by their therapist to try and work through their grief unconventionally, they are reminded of their shared love of music. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn all of their fights into songs, and with the help of their neighbor, Dave ("Saturday Night Live's" Fred Armisen, hilarious here), they start a band.
The heartfelt and unconventional dramedy "Band Aid" comes from first-time director, star, writer and producer Zoe Lister-Jones, best known for TV's "Life in Pieces." Her skilled, deft handling of the material makes it an auspicious debut for the actress, and she shares warm, genuinely funny chemistry with "Happy Endings'" Palley, who resembles Joaquin Phoenix here. Their folksy, delightful songs together are the highlight of the film, including Palley warbling "I don't know if you've gained a pound or two, and even if you did I wouldn't tell you," to Lister-Jones singing "I won't lie, I just wanna eat pie."
As engaging as this pair is, "Band Aid" is nearly stolen by "Portlandia" and "SNL" star Armisen, as the creepy-nice next door neighbor with his own issues (sex addiction and excessive hot cocoa) who puts up with their songs and fighting for the good of their band. His goofy mannerisms and matter-of-fact-statements make it all the funnier ("these are my best friends," referring to two strippers who live with him).
"Band Aid's" last act turns more serious as Anna and Ben deal with some weightier issues - including grief, depression and career changes - that are never fully explored by the script but provide substance to their bickering. Anna's final, touching song and some sage advice from Ben's Mom (the always-lovable Susie Essman of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in an all-too brief cameo) help give the film some heft as it ends with an upbeat tone.
Along the way, "Band Aid" (the name of their band is Dirty Dishes, by the way), provides enough humorous, satisfying notes and an auspicious debut for Lister-Jones, who'll be one to watch after this charmer.