Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Garden State Review

Cover Garden Poster

I just saw Garden State. This being the recently released flick directed, written by and staring Zach Braff whom many will know as the lead player of the TV series Scrubs.

Before I begin this review I must state that I am a fan of Scrubs, even though it sometimes suffers from American TV series lameness (a lesson has to be learn every episode, sometimes making it too sappy ala Full House). Because of the series I had some preconceived notions of Zach, which have thankfully been nullified. Never would I have conceived that someone from a TV sitcom could have so much talent inside him. Well, enough confessing and on with the review. Here follows a brief synopsis (not too many spoilers, this all becomes clear in the beginning of the movie) ripped from imdb:

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) shuffled through life in a lithium-induced coma until his mother's death inspired a vacation from the pills to see what might happen. A moderately successful TV actor living in Los Angeles, "Large" hasn't been home to the Garden State in nine years. But even with 3,000 miles between them, he's been unable to escape his domineering father Gideon and the silencing effect he's had on his son from afar. Stunned to find himself in his hometown after such a long absence, Large finds old acquaintances around every corner living quite unique lives as gravediggers, fast food knights and the panderers of pyramid schemes. Meanwhile, at home, he does his best to avoid a long-simmering but inevitable confrontation with his father. By a twist of fate, Large meets Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl who is everything he isn't. A blast of color, hope and quirks, Sam becomes a sidekick who refuses to ride in his sidecar. Her warmth and fearlessness give Large the courage to open his heart to the joy and pain of the infinite abyss that is life.

While this may sound sappy (after seeing trailers I wasn't too keen on seeing this flick) the story pans out quite well. For people of my generation (+/- 25 years) the issues in the film are very real, and I'm sure many people can identify with the lead player. Especially the feeling of not belonging, which is brilliantly portrayed by the acting talents of Zach, the flow of the film and the soundtrack (more about which later).

The script is extremely well written and definitely Oscar worthy IMHO. It was totally believable and had a good mix of 25 something characters. All are people who finish high school and go on with their lives, none of them particularly making it par one (watch the movie if you want to know more). Also a nice slow flow which works for the movie, and a lot of commentary on present day self medication practiced by a lot of people who can't deal with life.

The acting itself is superb. Of special note is Zach who plays the lead character to a T. This of course is logical, as he wrote the thing and I strongly suspect that this is a very personal movie for him, as it is also set around where he himself grew up in real life. Also of note is Natalie Portman. Ever since I saw her as a twelve year old fan I have been a personal fan, and although she has made her share of sappy chick flicks, I still think she's a good actress. While she still has certain nice girl next door quirks, this movie (and another one, Closer, which I will review later) shows that she is really developing into a woman and is ready for proper parts. Her acting isn't as cardboard as she was in Star Wars 4 & 5 (I get a bad taste just typing that title in) and you can definitely see why she was Zachs first pick for the part. I expect to see good work from here in the future. Even all of the extras give good performances, without exception. These are all unknowns, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of them make it as actors.

The soundtrack for this movie was handpicked by Zach before filming, and it shows. Not since Magnolia has a soundtrack so set the tune for a film. Every song is without exception a perfect pick. While a lot of films these days pick predictable top 40 songs, Zach has gone the "alternative" route. Of special note are the inclusions of The Sins and Zero 7, which I am listening to as I'm typing this.

As you can probably guess from this review, I am just glowing about this movie. My only criticism is that sometimes you see a little bit of JC (lead character of scrubs) in Zachs performance, but this by no means becomes irritating. I would never have guessed that he could make such a serious and touching movie. Therefore I'm giving this a well deserved 4.5/5, a must see for all you twenty somethings out there who don't belong.


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