Newest Review: ... powered around the characters, with Braff giving us a quirky look at the small new Jersey (Garden State) community he comes from. Best fr... more
Garden State (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
Garden State (DVD)
Advantages: Acting, music and direction
Disadvantages: Nothing special
I was rather intrigued to see Garden State sitting proudly in the mid 300s in Empire's 500 best films of all time, but also rather confused as I'd never heard of it and was surprised to hear that the quirky dude from Scrubs, Zach Braff, wrote, directed and starred in it. I needed no further intrigue to watch it, and when I spotted it on TV the other week, I settled down to see what was so special about it.
Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a failing bit actor who receives a phonecall from his father informing him his paraplegic mother has died. Andrew sets off for home, reluctant to revisit the place he has so many bad memories from, not least with his father. When he arrives though, a chance encounter with Sam (Natalie Portman) at the doctor's makes him rethink the values in his life.
The film is mainly powered around the characters, with Braff giving us a quirky look at the small new Jersey (Garden State) community he comes from. Best friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) is a 26 year old gravedigger, another of his friends dresses as a knight for a local restaurant, and another is a hardware store worker intent on believing that pyramid schemes are going to make him rich. They meet up with a hotel bellboy with a porn based sideline, and another friend who just happens to have recently bought a small mansion that they spend some time in.
These quirky characteristics and seemingly lesser career aspirations seem to kick start Andrew into thinking about what he's doing with his own life. Keen to set things right with his father (Ian Holm) but unsure how to do so, the reasons for his mother being a paraplegic hang over them like a dark cloud, and even though the film is presented in a slightly humourous nature with larking about and eccentric conversations, drug taking, soul searching and randomness galore; you always get the feeling that something needs to be done, that Andrew just isn't happy with his lot.
This is cleverly summed up by Braff in the scenes where Andrew is sitting around lost in his own self absorbed daydreams while events around him are speeded up to blurs, showing how everyone else's lives are continuing and carrying on just as normal while his is stagnant because he can't break the shackles. He spends the short trip back home avoiding his father though, and you just know that this isn't helping, no matter how much more positive Sam makes him feel about himself.
Theirs is a strange romance that blossoms, accepting each other's weirdness for what it is and not assuming anything. There's a fantastic little scene where Sam shows Andrew how to have a 'unique moment', along with a nice little conversation about lying. But this is a romance unlike any other - it's as if they sort of fancy each other and something may eventually happen, but over four days it's hard for something to fully blossom.
i thought the film itself wasn't anything special. It was a good exploration of the human psyche and how to come to terms with yourself, your close ones and your past, but beyond that it was just a good film. Where it stood out though was in the soundtrack. I haven't been able to hunt it down yet, but the music chosen really set the mood for each scene quite perfectly, and it's a soundtrack I'd love to get my hands on.
Overall then, a decent film but nothing special. I certainly wouldn't rate it as one of the best films of all time such as Empire has done, but it's definitely one that's worth watching if you spot it on at any point.
Summary: Quirky self searching film about a young man returning home to his mum's funeral