Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CineCaché #4: Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

Ah, the first CineCaché that really felt like the Eye-Opener series - I was bored practically to tears and then trapped in a conversation about just how terrific the movie was!

I kid. A little. The conversation afterward was a really weird dynamic for me, though - it started with an acknowledgment that the film was flawed and imperfect, but as the discussion rolled along, it became more and more "isn't this amazing?" And while that was probably good for me to hear, in terms of tempering the overwhelming aggravation that was my main reaction (I think I basically liked the scene on the T that I describe in the review, but almost everything else just didn't work for me), it's a bit of an odd phenomenon - were people convincing themselves it was a good movie, or just letting how much they actually enjoyed it out even though they had felt the need to acknowledge its weaknesses.

There was also a fairly emphatic sideline onto whether or not Guy and Madeline is a musical or not, and how musicals after the sixties were different from musicals before, but... who really cares? Obviously, the people arguing, but what does arguing about or even deciding whether or not a movie fits in one specific genre really gain? I suppose it might matter if you're trying to talk about a specific genre, but the official stance of this blog is Making Lists Is Stupid, and this sort of nit-picking generally seems to be more about excluding than including, and there's no need for that.

Similarly, there was some talk about how well director Damien Chazelle faked the geography - if you know your way around the Greater Boston area, it's either hilarious or confusing how someone will turn a corner by Berklee and wind up near Alewife Station - but I don't know that it's such a big deal: The whole city is made of brick, after all; it's not hard for one neighborhood to blend with another.

The film opens for its regular run at the Brattle on 17 December, playing for the week leading up to Christmas. Obviously, I'm not recommending it, but my prejudices are fairly well established by this point: I like movies where people do things, as a result other things happen, and as a result the people do other things; movies like Guy and Madeline drive me nuts beyond all reason (check out the difference between my opinion of I Am Love and the general critical consensus). It's a film that is engineered to aggravate me but which will have a fair amount of fans, and I wouldn't really think that they're wrong - just that we enjoy movies in different ways.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 November 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (CineCaché)

First impressions can be a heck of a thing to shake. Even before talking to the other people at the screening, I knew there were a lot of things that rookie filmmaker Damien Chazelle did well in Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. This one rubbed me the wrong way early, though, and then never rose high enough above average to earn its way back into my good graces.

Guy (Jason Palmer) plays jazz trumpet in Boston, scraping the odd gig together, either still in college or not long graduated. Madeline (Desiree Garcia) was his girlfriend, but they've recently broken up, so she's looking for a post-college place to live and job, and having trouble moving on. Elena (Sanddhha Khin) is Guy's new girl, and there doesn't seem to be much to her.

Nobody says "mumblecore" any more, except maybe when referencing certain specific filmmakers, and besides, that's a stripped-down style, and Guy and Madeline has a fairly elaborate score and impressively choreographed musical numbers for a film of its clearly minuscule budget. The promotion mentions other influences, such as the French New Wave and MGM musicals. However, there's a reason that the plot description doesn't go much beyond listing the characters who take center stage; they don't actually do a whole lot. It's a movie about underemployed young people who don't know what's next, and who aren't hugely proactive in going after it.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

angel said...

It became the shorthand of emotion where in love and music seems somehow the very central essence.