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Zach Braff's "Garden State" manages to accomplish something that very
few films have been able to do throughout the history of cinema. It is
a film that speaks to an entire generation. 1947's "The Best Years of
Our Lives" spoke to our grandparents. "The Graduate" spoke to our
parents. "Fight Club" spoke to our older brothers working dead-end jobs
in the 90's. But it is with the arrival of "Garden State" that our
generation is spoken to, those of us born in the early-mid 80's who are
in our late teens and early twenties trying to make it by in a
environment that seems all at once to strange and yet so familiar.
Homecoming is the theme of Garden State. Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff)) has been away from his hometown of New Jersey for the past nine years and returns to attend the funeral for his mother. While having been gone, Andrew has been on lithium and other forms of anti-depressant medication all prescribed to him by his psychiatrist father Gideon (Ian Holm). Upon his homecoming Andrew has decided to take a vacation from his medication and take some time to re-connect with himself. From there the plot grows as he connects with old friends and makes new ones and discovers the joys of life and love mostly thanks to the arrival of free-spirited Sam (Natalie Portman).
Braff has written and directed scenes that qualify to go down in the movie history books along such moments as Pulp Fiction's dance sequence, and The Deer Hunter's Russian roulette scenes. Two of said scenes that come to mind are when Sam takes Andrew up to her room for the first time and does something "totally original that has never been done before in this location and will never be copied again throughout the rest of human existence," in order to ease the pain of an awkward situation. Another scene occurs late in the film when the three principals stand at the edge of a seemingly endless abyss and scream at the tops of their lungs into the gorge. It is this moment that defines, with one pure act, the epitome of what it feels to be in your late teens, early 20's looking out at life. Standing at the edge of life and screaming.
While all the acting is noteworthy, including a hilarious cameo by Method Man (yes, that's right Method Man), it is Natalie Portman who steals the show. Sam is in essence the adult version of her character from Beautiful Girls. She's 26, but an old soul. It his in her that the movie comes out the realm of quirky off-kilter comedy and gains heart, soul, and intimacy all to rare to achieve in films these days. Bravo Ms. Portman. In addition, Peter Sarsgaard is becoming one of my new favorite actors, after having seen him in this film, Shattared Glass, and Boys Don't Cry within a matter of approximately three weeks.
I will go on record an call Garden State a masterpiece. It does exactly what films are supposed to do, take from all areas of art and incorporate them into one. It is a passionate mixture of visual flare, tremendous dialogue, hip music, and heart-warming pathos. I encourage anyone who is young to see this film. See it with the people you care about, this is your film, this is OUR film, and it couldn't be better.
'Garden State' came out in the Uk on December 10th. I had heard
wonderful things about it from friends and relatives in the US - I
From start to finish, the film made me laugh and cry. I thought the opening in which we met Braff lying emotionless in bed. Listening to the answer machine message from his dad about his mother's death was disturbing and really drew me in.
So many memorable moments: The funeral, touching and funny, the party scenes, the scan scene...And as for the dialogue - well, sharp and witty. I don't think I will ever forget Natalie Portman's dancing in her bedroom - just to be 'unique' or Zach Braff's touching comments about what makes a 'home' in the swimming pool.
Even those touching moments were funny; the fact that he couldn't swim!
As a mid twenty-something, This film really spoke to me. It's that question we all dread. We've graduated university, got jobs....then what?
Fantastic...just a shame it is not on wide release here...
One of the best films I have seen in ages!
Movies with guns, explosions, Barbie/ken romance... You know the drill.
They can be good films, but it's rare I ever relate to those movies.
I *really* related to this movie - both the main character played by Zach, and the pure concept and analogy on display here. This film earns itself a place in my DVD collection upon release for the sheer fact it matches my 20-something experience to a huge degree, and all the feelings along the way.
Normally films such as this tend to end up becoming "coming of age" stories - this isn't. It's simply about living life, but not knowing why you are living it.
An excellent film on many levels - 10/10.
First off, for anyone thinking about seeing this movie, go do it!! No matter what anyone has told you already about the film. I notice a lot of people writing that they didn't like Garden State and that's fine, I personally thought it was excellent. To me it was real life on film, and within that real life there are very different people. Unfortunately not everyone wants to see movies that remind them of reality, and I guess not everybodies reality is the same as mine. Even so Garden State is well worth the watching, if only to remind us that the comatose state most of us live in is only temporary, and the joy of a life well lived is forever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Garden grew on me. It kept replaying in my mind. It reminded me of the
movie The Graduate (no slight praise) for many reasons, not the least
of which was the soundtrack which included a song by Simon and
Garfunkel. I mean, why include an old song by S&G in the middle of a
host of contemporary artists - it must have been done on purpose -
right? And the pool scene, although different than Hoffman's, still
serves to illustrate Andrew Largeman's alienation.
Much like the Graduate, it was the little things that got to me. The escalators heading in two directions at the end, the making of a completely original dance, the touching of the father, the arc on the edge of the abyss, the silent Velcro...I could go on.
Natalie Portman got to me too. Playing the role of a goofy, epileptic but cute, hometown girl, she steals the show. She hits all the right notes. She is responsible for the death by tread-wheel of a loved one, she habitually lies, and she's slightly crazy, but Andrew and we can't help falling in love with her.
Movies like this are rare. Lots worth looking at, lots worth listening to, lots to think about, lots to feel good about. I hope Braff (star, writer, director) has a few more like this in him.
Zach Braff has made it. Both script, directing and main acting, and
everything is more than all right. This is a film without violence
about people living ordinary extra-ordinary lives and it's much more
interesting than extra-ordinary murders, which very, very few, even in
the USA, encounter.
The "hero" has been going on tranquilizers for all his grown up-life and even before that. He's got no feelings left, not even for the death of his mother. Then he meets a girl, well acted indeed by Natalie Portman, who unlocks him slowly, saying the right things all the time without knowing it.
Hours after you've seen this, you realize that here was a crucial moment, this was a turning point and so on. The love story gets a little sentimental at the end, but still this is a film that lives long after you've seen it through.
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.
I really loved this movie. I mean, really. So it surprised me to come
and find it rated so low.
By no means is this a perfect movie. It can be slow or awkward from time to time and there are one or two moments that just don't work. But. By and large I was really impressed.
It's a great little story with just the right balance of comedy and drama, full of quirky characters and interesting performances. Ian Holm demands attention, as always, and Natalie Portman's Sam, while offputting at first, definitely grew on me as she grew into a real character.
But the real story here is Zack Braff. It should surprise no one who has ever watched Scrubs that his performance keeps the movie together; or that he is able to create a jokey, distant, somewhat sarcastic character who also elicits real empathy from the audience and manages to emanate deep wounds. What amazes me is the work he has done here as a first time writer/director.
First off, there is an actual narrative here with meaning and relevance. Too often, the big Hollywood movies will have a plot that resolves itself, but means nothing; on the flip side, independent movies almost seem to disdain plot for mood and thematic concerns. Braff is able to weave both together--a difficult task for a young writer. The dialogue is witty, plot situations intelligent and creative, and overall the writing is just--good.
As for his directing, there are a few odd choices. I'm still not sure I like one scene the main characters are screaming into a deep ravine and the camera sweeps away into said ravine. It just tossed me out of the movie a bit. I'm also not completely sure what to make of the movie's ending, which I won't go into further except to say that I felt it almost changed the focus of the movie up to that point and made it about something else. However, there are moments of absolutely beauty as well, here. The entire scene where Sam and Andrew talk in his friend's pool has some great shots, and Braff's comedic flair and timing are evident in his directing style, which still manages to pull back for the more dramatic and poignant moments.
I urge you to see this movie. It's not a "big" movie. It was never meant to be. But I have little doubt that, once it finds an audience, it will be remembered for years to come. Sort of a modern day Graduate with a more hopeful outlook on life.
I would give Garden State a 9 out of 10. The only reason I'm not giving it a perfect 10 is b/c it had a slow start. Besides that this movie overwhelmingly surprised me with its directing and acting. Natatlie Portman did an amazing job playing Sam. She really worked the part. Zach Braff's directing debut is stunning. I had never heard of Braff except for his character on the TV show Scrubs. He also did an excellent job acting. There were so many surprising elements thrown out during the movie. Braff just kept piling one thing on top of the next to make the story more interesting as it rolled on. I was very pleased with Garden State!!!!!!!!!11
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have no qualms with how the movie does NOT capture New Jersey (like
Zach, I'm from there). Fine. Whatever. I lived there WAY long enough. I
don't need to see a movie that captures the Garden State.
What I do have qualms with is how bad this movie is. Let's make it easy on you. We'll use some bullet-points. There are probably some spoilers that follow. (Not that you wouldn't be able to predict the movie ANYWAY):
-The music placement was maddeningly forced and patronizing. Example: Large: "What are you listening to?" Sam: "The Shins. Ever heard of 'em?" "No." "Listen to this song - it will change your life!" And then they proceed to play that Shins song that was in a McDonalds commercial. (Don't you love when the characters in a movie blatantly tell you - the viewer - how to react to something? I love that! Hey, they should have put subtitles during various scenes instructing us to "chuckle," "Say 'aaaaaw'" "cry" "feel inspired" etc.)
-The scenes were SO BAD. SO Cliché. SO MELODRAMATIC. Example: The entire movie. But no, really, example: They're in the rainy quarry by the ark. Large runs up - in the pouring rain (oh he's SO TORMENTED!) - on top of a piece of heavy machinery and SCREAMS! Oh how moving! But wait! Here comes Sam and his buddy (the annoying drug addict), and they ALL SCREAM!!!! BUT WAIT!!!! OH MY GOD!!!! Here it comes! THEY KISS!!! LONG, DEEP!!!! IN THE RAIN!!!!!!!!
-The dialogue was SO BAD. SO Cliché. SO MELODRAMATIC. Example. They're leaving the ark and Sam says something like, "Hey. Good luck exploring the infinite abyss." And the guy says back, "You, too." Oh...Oh my! I never realized...could it be? Oh my God it is! Large's life is like...ohmigod...AN INFINITE ABYSS!!!! Another example: Large and Sam in the airport. Sam says something like, "Is this goodbye?" Not enough for ya? OK, Largeman says something like, "This isn't a period at the end of the sentence... it's an ellipses." And guess what happens when he tries to walk down the jetway and go back to his life in LA. You know, what? Don't guess. It's a waste of your time.
-It's a Grade Z Wes Anderson rip-off movie. When not busy being melodramatic and cliché, the movie spends lots of times with crazy-kooky-off-kilter characters. Hey, Sam's brother... thank you Zach Braff for including him, because it really made the movie so much more textured. Also ripping off Anderson: the dialogue. Scene: Sam and Largeman are in a bar. In walks friends, "Vagina!" says one of them. Then they see him sitting with Sam, so one of the friends says, "Sorry I said vagina." And Sam says, "It's OK."
-Inventive cinematography that's not inventive but pointless and annoying. Give me a break with the speed-up/slow down of film. Again, Wes Anderson does it effectively in his movies. And it was done well in "Donnie Darko." But, really, it was pointless. Wow. A crazy party where people are taking X and snorting coke. Better roll out all the tricks!
-You can count the good moments on one hand (even if you're missing fingers). That's what makes it even WORSE. The retarded quarterback thing...well, that was good! The little thing he (largeman) says as they're about to enter the quarry (something about huffing turpentine)...that was good! Oh, wait, that's about it.
You know, Zach Braff is, I think, always a little too cute. But, he's likable. But, man, this is forced, pretentious, melodramatic (have you gotten that yet?), overly cute, overly everything. This movie is terrible. Apparently, I'm outnumbered, as this waste of time is currently rated an 8.0.
Please, though, if you're looking for something truly poignant and subtle and unique DO. NOT. RENT. THIS. MOVIE.
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