Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009)

Long before First Man, La La Land, and Whiplash, even before he graduated from Harvard, Damien Chazelle made his directorial debut with Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, which I had to watch as I love his three big pictures. 

The film tells the story of Guy (Jason Palmer), a promising young jazz trumpeter, and Madeline (Desiree Garcia), his introverted girlfriend. After three months of dating, Guy breaks up with Madeline and pursue a relationship with another woman, the more outgoing Elena (Sandha Khin), only to realise that she is not interested in his music, that she is actually annoyed by it and his friends. Meanwhile, Madeline takes a job as a waitress in a diner to save money to go to New York.

The problem with Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is that, in addition to the aforementioned storyline which isn't always easy to follow, there are multiple other subplots that add nothing to the main story; if anything, they distract from it, they confuse you as it's not always clear where they are going, and they make you feel as if you were watching a bunch of short stories put together in a random order.

The characters are another of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench's flaws as Chazelle failed to deliver interesting characters. While the actors do a great job, each of the leads providing a genuine, natural performance —not even for a second it feels like a movie. It is as if you are watching life happening—, the characters have very little personality and no development whatsoever, and therefore you are really never emotionally invested as you are supposed to be. The ending, however, still manages to have an emotional impact.

Variance Films
All of that being said, watching Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench was not a waste of time. Although some parts are more compelling than others, the latter being a bit tedious, the film has a beautiful grainy black and white cinematography, rich of long takes, and intimate close-ups that capture the tenderness and vulnerability of the characters to perfection. The score, composed by Justin Hurwitz, is nothing short of beautiful, and there are some charming tip tap dancing and a wonderful musical number.


  1. I have this film on my watchlist as it's something I hope to see soon once a new film by Damien Chazelle arrives as he's in a shortlist of future Auteurs subjects I hope to do soon.

    1. I hope you get to see this soon. It's not the best movie, but you can see his trademarks.