Garden State (15)
<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5Rate this
Time Out saysFor years, daytime TV actor Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) has been on medication, numb to the demands of the world in general and of his domineering shrink father (Ian Holm) in particular. But after a telephone call announcing his mother’s death drags him home from LA to smalltown New Jersey, a doctor’s appointment and a reunion with erstwhile pals including gravedigger Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) combine to convince the closed-off thesp he should ditch the drugs. Things change slowly at first – and then he meets Sam (Natalie Portman), whose forceful vitality begins to erode his defences.
That American ‘indie’ cinema isn’t what it once was is all too evident in this utterly innocuous concoction: two parts quirky-but-cute, one part pure mush.
Too often in the early scenes, Braff the director seems to be straining for effect – armoured knights wandering through kitchens, hamster stuff – to compensate for Braff the actor’s uninvolvingly flat performance, but Portman’s energy and expertise enliven things when she finally turns up. In fact, she almost succeeds in distracting us from the fact that all the contrived wackiness is really a smokescreen for routine romantic plot development; a tryst beside a log fire marks the moment when the plot’s formulaic trappings are laid bare for all to see, and the film never recovers.
This is a movie where ‘sensitivity’ and ‘sincerity’ are signposted by songs by Paul Simon and Nick Drake, which I guess says it all. Not subtle.