Garden State

Film, Drama
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Garden State
For 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.
Geoff Andrew

By: GA

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday December 10 2004
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Zach Braff
Screenwriter: Zach Braff
Cast: Zach Braff
Natalie Portman
Ian Holm
Peter Sarsgaard
Method Man
Jean Smart

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Most bizarre film I've seen this year, and the fact that it's only the 21st of January has nothing to do with it. I tend to like everything Zach Braff ever does because he's quirky and charming and that's all I'm looking for in a fictional boyfriend. My housemate and I spent most of the one hour and something the film lasted looking at each other with puzzled expression all over our faces. We're still unsure as to what the moral of the film was or if there was even one. Special congrats to Nathalie Portman's performance! She's usually the queen of glamour and yet managed to get into the skin of a troubled, compulsive liar post-teenager with astounding ease.

You fail to see Braff isn't creating a masterpiece. Life isn't fun. It is a struggle of boring. He's displaying how life really is. He isn't trying to show a cool movie. When he talks to his dad and days he's been numb it isn't a spectacular moment. It's a moment where people who have been on Prozac, xanex, etc say yes. It's a glimmer of understanding where the only other thing we relate to is American psycho. I'm not crazy. I'm relatable. Garden state gets it. You don't. Because you don't get being depresed

There's no doubting the sensitivity and sincerity on display in this film but with such a paper- thin plot it's hard to engage . . . . Basically the plot is . . `depressed guy returns to home-town and meets pretty girl who cheers him up. `. . .. That's about it . . .. . . On the plus side, there's a lot of quirky humour and rustic eccentricity which reveals an America you don't see in the Hollywood products . . . but . . . . unfortunately, despite its downbeat charm the film can't compensate for a basic lack of plot . . . . As Geoff Andrew indicates in the Time Out review . . .the music exudes tan indulgence and sentimentalism which sabotage the film's attempts to give a harder edge to the anti-hero's critique of small-town America. . . To sum up , this film is a sort of diluted Catcher in the Rye with the music of Paul Simon as a sweetener . . . However, Natalie Portman's performance livens things up considerably . . . Worth seeing. .