Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2010) ***

NR, 82 min.
Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Jason Palmer, Desiree Garcia, Sandha Khin

“Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” earns points for originality. It’s an independently made jazz musical that reflects its jazz influences in its filmmaking execution. It’s kind of a free form romance that follows a jazz musician and his ex-girlfriend in their journey to find each other again. The movie begins with photographic impressions of the end of their relationship and then follows them as their lives take them separate ways until Guy realizes he wants Madeline back.

Guy continues as a Jazz musician. We see recording sessions and musical numbers inspired by the free form spirit of jazz. Guy meets another girl named Elena and embarks on a follow up relationship in which Guy does not emotionally engage Elena as much as she would like. Madeline is a dreamer who wants something bigger than her rented room existence in Boston, and eventually she moves to New York. But, life isn’t much different there. Song and dance numbers punctuate Madeline’s story. One musical number at the greasy spoon where Madeline works is particularly fun.

While “Guy and Madeline” employ some fun filmmaking and storytelling techniques, not enough effort has been put into making the characters compelling. I didn’t particularly like Guy or Madeline. Elena is interesting enough, but she never asserts herself. The resolution of her story is unsatisfactory. The musical elements of this movie along with it’s originality make it worth seeing, but writer/director Damien Chazelle needed to spend a little more time forming his characters into fully functional, three dimensional personalities.

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