Andrew Largeman is a semi-successful television actor who plays an 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
Too knowingly quirky and a bit up itself but still entertaining with a heart visible under the "kookiness"
Andrew Largeman is an "actor" in Hollywood, meaning that he has had a small part in a TV show and is currently a waiter. When his mother dies, he is forced to return home and see the father that has kept him medicated since he was aged 10. His return home causes him to examine his life even though he still cannot really feel anything; it also allows him to hook up with old friends as well as meeting new ones namely the beautiful but strange Sam.
It is perhaps ironic that the same qualities that attracted me to this film were the same qualities that I felt weakened it as a total film: these qualities were that it appeared a bit kooky and introspective. With several films of 2004 having mined this seam to great success, Garden State could be accused of being just an attempt to clone that by convey the malaise of twenty-somethings and, in fairness, it doesn't really help itself in the way it tends to overdo the aforementioned qualities. I do like films that are touching and introspective but they are best where they involve very real characters (or emotions); here the malaise is drug-induced and the situations all feel overdone and exaggerated. This is mirrored in the way the film knowingly does everything in a quirky manner and never misses a chance to make things more "off-kilter"; for example our character drives an unusual vehicle, Sam has an African brother, there is a bottomless pit in Newark and so on. There is nothing terribly wrong with this but at times I did wish that it would tone down the "kookiness" and just get down to looking at the characters.
It still manages to do this but it does it despite the kookiness and not as a result of it. The characters are still well enough written that you do recognise them at least in small part and should be able to find part of their feelings that you can relate to or at least empathise with. When it works it works very well and I can understand so many moody youths have taken this film to their hearts; however at other times it doesn't manage to bring out characters or develop the story in a manner that will be as touching as it could have been if it had set itself in a much less kooky world. As writer and director, Braff must bare responsibility for these faults but then he deserves much more in the way of praise for all the things he does well his direction is assured and has plenty of style, his choice of soundtrack is hardly earth shattering but suits his material and, despite the flaws, his writing is still an impressive debut. As actor though he is only so-so; it may be realistic for his character but am I the only person who dislikes raised inflections. He downplays his stuff and he does well, letting the rest of the cast shine.
In particular Natalie Portman digs her way deeper into my heart with a great performance. At times she comes close to failing but mostly she even manages to keep her character really likable and not get buried beneath the quirks. Not only is she beautiful but her vulnerability is well delivered as well as her sense of humour and fun; when she is on screen it is hard to not focus on her. Sarsgaard is a great young actor who is building up a collection of good performances. This film gives him less to do than it really should have done but he is still watchable and does well with what he has been given. Support is good from Holm, Dowd and Method Man (yes, you heard me right) but really the film is Portman's and she takes to it with a light, natural air that made me forget that I'll probably have to cope with another wooden performance from her in Star Wars 3 in a few months.
Overall this is a good film but not as great as people seem to think. The story is good and the characters are, in essence, well written, but it just feels like it was really pushing for the "kooky" niche that had been hit by Lost in Translation and The Station Agent. At times it could have scaled back the quirks and concentrated on the characters to produce a better film but even with this flaw it still works well and will be enjoyed by fans of the aforementioned films and introspective young people.
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