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Bob Doto [Film Festival 04.30.09] movie review musical drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Damien Chazelle
Writers: Damien Chazelle
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 6 out of 10

Ugh. I don’t know. This film that people seem to be talking about just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ve been around too many theater majors to appreciate the beautiful whimsy of out of left field sing songy dance sequences, in an otherwise stoicism-meets-the poetic film, but I call BS. I’ve seen it all before and certainly done better (Buffalo 66 anyone?).

Tell you what. I’ll give this film a six because, yeah the instrumentation of leading man Guy (played by pro trumpeter Jason Palmer) is off the handle, and the female roles are strong and barely subordinary, but over all I thought this wreaked of “Hey isn’t jazz the music that best sums up love’s complexity? And isn’t it just so darn hip and marginal when done right?” Thing is, I hang around too many marginal music scenes to know that no scene is as immediate and cathartic as this film attempts to portray. Spontaneous jazz-tastic keg parties where dudes with ponytails tap dance while singing jazz standards making the ladies swoon? I have got to be running with the wrong people, bro.

God, I sound so cynical and negative. What’s the deal? I don’t know. The whole black & white film thing mixed with the everyone is in an interracial relationship thing mixed with the be-bop thing mixed with the old people have wisdom we should listen to thing mixed with the music brings us all together while it tears us apart thing. It all just seems to be laid on a little thick.

Anyway, the obligatory plot description goes as follows: Guy meets Madeline (Desiree Garcia). They break up. Guy meets Elena (Sandha Khin). Eh, Guy can’t really commit to that. Actually, Guy is kind of a jerk, and continues to act like a total “guy” throughout the film. Wandering. Feeling slightly trapped. Distant. All you guys out there know the deal. All the while Madeline is testing the waters of her own empowered sexuality and tries on a few male suitors for herself. One is even a Classical music aficionado. A nod to the ongoing battle between the spontaneous sexuality of jazz and the rigid majesty of Classical playing out again? In any case, the big question is: Will they get back together? (Gasp). Do you care?

Even with all that, I’d have to recommend this film to people. Not because I thought it was worth recommending, but because I just know some of you are gonna love this. I can’t pretend that my opinion on this is the last one, like I might for some other films. My issues with this film probably have more to do with me than with the film itself. One word of advice though. If you’re a writer and you’re really into something, like, say, snowboarding, please don’t try to make us all think it’s really cool too. If you’ve hung around snowboarders for more than an hour you’d know that reality is a lot more multi-faceted. Eventually, one of those dudes is gonna say something offensive. Nothing’s as cool as films want us to believe.

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