REVIEW: Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

22 02 2015

Guy and MadelineDamien Chazelle might have struck gold on “Whiplash,” but before that, he had to get “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” out of his system.  The former, now Oscar-winning film feels like the story the writer/director was born to tell.  His actual debut, however, seems like that final student film he had to submit to get a diploma.  (Chazelle is a Harvard graduate, by the way.)

Even as it catapults well over the bar of the average thesis film, “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” still feels mired in its trappings.  Chazelle feels beholden to a stubborn insistence on his own artiness, as if to announce his own arrival onto the scene.  And, apparently, he seems willing to sacrifice the narrative clarity of his modern romance on its behalf.

He demonstrates a clear understanding of both cinema verite American independent film as well as MGM-style filmed musicals, even making the bold move to combine them into a single feature.  When he wants, Chazelle proves capable of making a few fun modernizations to the movie musical tropes.  But more often than not, “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” appears uncommitted to its stylistic approach.  Chazelle, understandably, comes across as somewhat apprehensive of going full throttle.  C+2stars

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