Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Jazzy Musical Makes Its Way to DVD

Melancholy Madeline (Desiree Garcia) sits alone freezing on a park bench in Boston contemplating what just happened after being dumped by her boyfriend on a chilly, wintry day. Meanwhile, her equally-wistful ex, Guy (Jason Palmer), trudges home through the snow with his trumpet slung lazily over his shoulder. Upon arriving at his apartment, in utter resignation he removes a picture from the wall taken of the two of them during much happier times.
This is the poignant point of departure of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, an intriguing flashback flick deconstructing the demise of a young couple’s troubled relationship. Guy is played by Jason Palmer, an accomplished jazz trumpeter in his own right, while triple threat Desiree Garcia proves just as formidable acting, singing and dancing as Madeline.
The movie marks the remarkable writing and directorial debut of Damien Chazelle who exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of cinematic history here, interweaving a dizzying number of allusions to the work of legendary directors like John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Busby Berkeley.
As engaging as the picture’s premise are its original score by Justin Hurwitz and its shadowy cinematography coming courtesy of seductively-grainy, black & white 16mm film. The movie’s magical musical renditions, a delightful blend of jazz and show tunes, range from impromptu improvisations to catchy, carefully-choreographed song and dance numbers.
If all of the above isn’t enough to whet your curiosity, consider the plot which complicates into a compelling love triangle when Guy’s head is turned by flaky temptress Elena (Sandha Khin) while riding the subway. And when he develops existential angst over his ensuing girl troubles, he seeks solace on stage playing his instrument.
A toe-tapping tribute to Boston reminiscent of Woody Allen’s heartfelt homage to his own beloved Manhattan!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio: Cinema Guild
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, essay by film critic Amy Taubin, “Behind-the-Scenes” and “Song Writing” featurettes, audio commentary by director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz, and the theatrical trailer.

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