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Garden State (2004)
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Review Date: August 10, 2004
Director: Zach Braff
Writer: Zach Braff
Producers: Pamela Abdy, Gary Gilbert, Dan Halsted
Actors:
Zach Braff as Andrew Largeman
Natalie Portman as Sam
Peter Sarsgaard as Mark
Plot:
A struggling actor returns to his childhood home in New Jersey after his mother passes away accidentally. While in the garden state, he runs into his old friends, some of whom have made it stinkin' rich and others who are now digging people's graves for a living. Most of them turn out to be on drugs and plenty of existential talk and introspection ensues as our lead character meets a young, spry girl who re-energizes his reason for living. Oh yeah, "dad issues" also come up. My life ensues.
Critique:
A unique film that isn't likely to score big bucks at the box-office due to its specific target audience (confused peeps in their late 20s/early 30s), unorthodox story-telling (it meanders and doesn't really follow the typical 3-act structure) and somewhat depressive undertones (more like overtones!), but a picture that I personally connected with, and one that is likely to be appreciated by most anyone who is still "searching" for themselves while attempting to reconcile with so-called adulthood. The thing I loved most about this movie was its distinctive style, particularly in terms of its shot compositions, its use of camera and its abundant and pertinent application of soundtrack. The mood of the film is also just right, and for anyone from that generation, a likely connection is sure to be made. Once that was established, I really got into the film even more via its well-rounded characters, specifically the one played by Zach Braff (also the film's writer & director), who comes across as your typical messed-up 20-something who can't seem to find happiness in his life, despite having some of the pieces in place already. Natalie Portman is also a fun addition, and despite some over-the-top stuff that I could have done without, plays the part of the "obvious love match" to the tee. My fave from the bunch had to be the great Peter Sarsgaard though, an actor who keeps making some solid career moves. Here, he plays a down-and-out stoned-out Jersey gravedigger and I bought every minute of it.

I'm not sure if he was really baked, but that glazed look in his eyes worked. Small cameos by others including a funny sequence featuring Ron Leibman as a doctor looking into Braff's condition, were also entertaining (the dude dressed up as the Medieval knight was also a gas) The film also features a number of memorable sequences, one in which the gang enjoy some reefer, coke and girls, as well as a bunch of overhead shots that are clearly intended to mean more than "just looking cool" (although they look damn cool as well) My only small issue with the film was that it did lose its comedic edge during its second half, which got a lot more serious, as well as its predictability, which after the initial seeds were planted, was pretty easy to figure out as the plotlines concluded. That said, the movie was still consistently easy to watch, if only because of its directing beauty, its quirky circumstances and my own personal connection to the lead character's plight in life (I've recently been given a truckload of prescribed medication as well, and I'm not exactly sure if it's helping or not, but they do make me feel like I'm floating around half the time...is that good?) The film also reminded me of my favorite movie from 2002, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION, which also had to do with 20-somethings and the lack of direction or communication in their lives. Granted, that flick was a lot more stylized and uninhibited, but if the pure hatred that some people had for that movie is any indication (or pure love), GARDEN STATE might be one that draws a line in the sand with this year's audiences as well. I'm personally on the "me likey" side of that line.

(c) 2004 Berge Garabedian
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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