Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

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Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench Theatrical Poster.jpg
Official poster
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Produced by Damien Chazelle
Jasmine McGlade
Written by Damien Chazelle
Starring Jason Palmer
Desiree Garcia
Sandha Khin
Music by Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography Damien Chazelle
Edited by William Adam W. Parker
Damien Chazelle
Distributed by Variance Films
Release dates
  • April 23, 2009 (2009-04-23) (Tribeca)
  • November 5, 2010 (2010-11-05) (United States)
Running time
84 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $35,556

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is a 2009 American jazz musical film written and directed by Damien Chazelle, that recasts the MGM musical tradition in a gritty, vérité style. The film features a unique mixture of live jazz performances and choreographed tap dancing, as well as several more traditional musical numbers.


Set in modern day Boston, Massachusetts, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench tells the story of Guy and Madeline, a couple have been dating for three months. He’s an up-and-coming Boston jazz trumpeter, she an aimless introvert looking for work. The excitement of first love has faded, and Guy’s wandering eye is caught by Elena, a more outgoing woman. When Elena and Guy meet on a crowded subway car, sparks fly—and that spells the end of Guy and Madeline’s romance.

With Guy unexpectedly off in his new relationship, Madeline tries to rebuild her life. She changes apartments, searches for a new job, takes up an instrument, and goes on dates. Nothing clicks—until she travels to New York on a whim and meets a Frenchman named Paul, who she feels an instant connection to. Meanwhile, Guy begins to wonder if he has made a mistake. Elena shows no interest in his music, and time and again the memories of Madeline come calling.

By the time Guy resolves to win her back, Madeline has seemingly moved on. He knocks on her door, but she’s nowhere to be found, as she's preparing to move to New York City. He finally runs into her on a forgotten corner, where the two former lovers are faced with the question of whether they should let the past go, or rekindle their lost romance.


The film features a cast of non-professional actors, though several are accomplished in other fields. Jason Palmer, who plays Guy, is a noted jazz trumpeter who was named one of the Top 25 Trumpeters of the Future by Downbeat Magazine in 2007,[1] and was the first trumpet player to be hired by acclaimed guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel to perform with his quintet.


Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench was shot on black and white 16mm film stock. Originally planned as director Chazelle's thesis film for Harvard Film School, he briefly left Harvard to focus on finishing the film.


The film features all original music, composed by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Chazelle. The orchestral score was performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, while the jazz numbers contained in the film were performed by the cast, often live.


The film premiered to a strong critical reception during its festival run. The Village Voice called the film "the kind of movie a young Cassavetes might have made were he working for MGM's Freed Unit".[2] The Boston Globe called it "the most buzzed-about movie at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival".[3] Time Out New York called it "blissful, brilliant", and noted "one sequence involving a tap dancer, a jam session, and a house party is arguably the most joyous five minutes you're likely to experience in a theater".[4] Several reviewers called the film a "mumblecore musical".[5][6][7] Amy Taubin of Film Comment, John Anderson of Variety, David Fear of Time Out New York, and Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News named it the best undistributed film of the year in 2009, and indieWIRE named it the #3 Best Undistributed Film of 2009 in its year-end critics' poll.[8]

Harvey Karten of CompuServe gave the film a C-, calling it "underproduced" and the cinematography "ragged and grainy".[9]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes currently scores the film with a 90%[10] and Metacritic an 84 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".[11]


After a lengthy festival run, Variance Films released the film in New York City on November 5, 2010,[12] with expansion to select theaters across the US and Canada in the months following. The film was released on DVD by Cinema Guild on May 3, 2011.

Festivals and Awards[edit]

The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, and went on to play festivals across the globe, including the AFI Los Angeles, Thessalonki International Film Festival, Mar del Plata International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival (where it won the Special Jury Prize[13]), Mill Valley Film Festival, Starz Denver Film Festival, Viennale, Sarajevo Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival (where it was a nominee for the Mavericks Award), International Film Festival Prague, and the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (where it won the award for Best Fiction Feature).[14]


  1. ^ "Jason Palmer at All About Jazz". Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  2. ^ "Stuff We Like". Village Voice (April 22–28). Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  3. ^ "Harvard graduate's film debut is the talk of Tribeca Film Festival - The Boston Globe". April 26, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  4. ^ "Today's Tribeca Pick: Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench". Time Out New York. April 23, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  5. ^ "Short takes: 'Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,' 'Jews and Baseball,' 'Outside the Law'". November 5, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  6. ^ Schager, Nick (October 31, 2010). "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench | Film Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  7. ^ J. Hoberman (December 23, 2010). "J. Hoberman's Top 10 Movies of 2010 - Page 1 - Movies - St. Louis". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  8. ^ "Best Undistributed Film - Annual Critics Survey 2009". indieWIRE. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved November 16, 2014
  11. ^ Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench at Metacritic Retrieved November 16, 2014
  12. ^ "Fest Fave 'Guy and Madeline' Lands at Variance". indieWIRE. March 11, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  13. ^ "Film Festival in Torino 2009". December 11, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  14. ^ [2]

External links[edit]