With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
Andrew Largeman is a semi-successful television actor who plays a intellectually disabled quarterback. His somewhat controlling and psychiatrist father has led Andrew ("Large") to believe that his mother's wheelchair bound life was his fault. Andrew decides to lay off the drugs that his father and his doctor made him believe that he needed, and began to see life for what it is. He began to feel the pain he had longed for, and began to have a genuine relationship with a girl who had some problems of her own. Written by
Garden State isn't like many Hollywood films these days.
There's no big men with one liners and 300 pound weapon arsenals. it is a simple, quiet film thats been made with a care only found in independent films.
The plot, in not too many words, is pretty basic. A young, heavily medicated, twenty-something returns home to New Jersey for his mothers funeral. He meets a lot of his old loser friends from high school, and a girl called Sam. I won't reveal any more details, but I assure you that there is nothing you won't see coming.
The plot is not the main driving force, and throughout it remains very focused on the characters, all of whom are thoroughly believable and likable.
The jokes in the film (and the mixture of comedy with drama), are very similar to Braff's comedy series Scrubs. From the off-the-wall nature of the shirt joke (you'll see) to the directness of the indefatigable dogs there's certainly a broad range to appeal to everybody.
The performances are all spot on as well. Zach Braff essentially reprises his role of J.D from Scrubs, and brings the level of intensity you can expect from a man who's been on Lithium for as long as he has. Not that he gives a performance thats lesser than all the other characters, in fact if he'd been anymore vibrant he would of appeared false, but he does seem to let his co-stars run with it in almost every scene, placing him firmly in the background, which is very strange for a main character. He does all his character is required to do and essays a likable, interesting lead man.
Natalie Portman, on the other hand, is entirely different. This is the film that blasted her to dream girl status, and you can see why. She plays the traditional free spirited young girl, but she adds so much more than just blatant eccentricity. She takes what could of been a banal, two dimensional character and turns her into an utterly believable, independent young woman. Of course shes very pretty, that goes without saying, but that is never really used as an excuse for her and Braffs relationship. Believe me, any self respecting man/boy between the ages of 12-50 wont leave the theatre without feeling very attached to Samantha.
The supporting cast are all suitably excellent. Peter Saarsgard gives an outstanding performance as Braffs old best friend, as does Ian Holm as his mourning father. All of the others are very good, but seeing as their are so many I shall not list them here (most new areas have another supporting character or two).
All in all, an excellent debut from Braff, who shows that he is capable of delivering simple emotional stories with love and care. Anchored by intelligent scripting and believable performances Garden State is a truly remarkable piece of indie cinema.
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