‘Guy and Madeline’ an odd blend that will charm some

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, January 7, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

This movie can’t be accused of false advertising: In the first couple of minutes of “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” we do indeed see Guy and Madeline on a park bench.

How they got there is summed up in a few brief strokes depicting a smallish romance and then a breakup on that very bench. Sorting out the aftermath of that split occupies the next 75 or so minutes of screen time.

But this is not a conventional relationship picture. Director Damien Chazelle has created a curious but winning little movie here: It’s somehow a blend of old-school Hollywood musical, gritty John Cassavetes-style urban jazz (the lead actors could’ve stepped out of Cassavetes’ Beat-era film “Shadows”), and modern indie mumble-fest.

If all of that doesn’t entirely ignite, well, it was worth trying. Guy, a taciturn type played by smooth, cool Jason Palmer, is a trumpeter by trade. He also has a touch with the ladies, as he proves in an early pick-up scene on a subway car, where proximity to a woman named Elena (Sandha Khin) turns into a liaison, and then something else.

Madeline, played by Desiree Garcia, finds herself at loose ends. She listens to a CD of Guy’s jazz music, impulsively decides to move from Boston to New York, and finds a dishwashing job.

This is all shot in black-and-white, with frequent stops for pure music sessions. Actually, it’s a fair question to wonder whether the drama stops for the music, or the other way around.

The music is by Justin Hurwitz, who has created a horn-driven score that sounds as though it belongs in another, maybe slightly cornier, era.

Two standout sequences really set the movie aloft. One is a jam session inside a cramped apartment, all shot in one take as the participants trade licks and dance on piano benches and such.

The other is a tap-dancing ensemble piece in the restaurant where Madeline works; she sings and dances with the other wait staff in the place. It’s like a version of a song from an MGM musical from the 1940s, but rendered in a way that makes you conclude this is what such a scene would look like when placed in the real world.

My head tells me the film’s different pieces (and its thin slices of storyline) don’t quite cohere, but anybody in the mood for a bop off the beaten path might take to its blend of grit and whimsy.

“Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” ½

The aftermath of a romance, but not rendered in a conventional way: A trumpet player dumps his girlfriend, and they flounder in search of the next move — a thin drama played out against a series of musical numbers, shot in gritty black-and-white. It doesn’t quite work, but the odd blend will charm some viewers.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Northwest Film Forum

Talk to us

More in Life

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

The 2022 Lexus GX has a 301-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full time all-wheel drive. (Lexus)
Updated 2022 Lexus GX 460 expands list of standard features

Navigation and a 10.3-inch multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Most Read