Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009)

Damien Chazelle’s first film surprised me in how how it indeed felt like a first film. His second, “Whiplash”, and third, “La La Land”, felt so fully-formed and masterfully done, that it surprised me to see his first film, “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench”, be so much more of an amateur effort.

That’s not to say that it’s bad, just that it’s very clearly a student’s, a journeyman’s effort. The music is great (the same composer, Justin Hurwitz, went on to do the music for Chazelle’s other films), and there are some compelling scenes, but a lot of the film feels more disparate than I imagine Chazelle intended.

I feel like the film was the low budget, but not in the sense that every aspect of it cleverly accommodates Chazelle’s limitations in making it, but that it feels like it was made out of necessity, that it was hampered by such restraints rather than created in recognition and accordance with them.

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Chazelle’s love of cinema, his love of making film, is clear here, but his love of making this film in particular is a lot more murky. It lacks the obvious earnestness and sharpness of his two next films. I don’t feel the emergence of an earnest, exciting, creative, talented voice here that I felt with “Whiplash”.

I enjoyed the film, but it’s not something I’d find memorable if not for Chazelle’s career. I give it three trumpets, and a cookie.

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