Garden State (2004)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Romance


Garden State (2004) Poster

A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother's funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

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7.5/10
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  • Zach Braff and Peter Sarsgaard at an event for Garden State (2004)
  • Garden State (2004)
  • Peter Sarsgaard in Garden State (2004)
  • Natalie Portman and Zach Braff in Garden State (2004)
  • Shannon Elizabeth and Joseph D. Reitman at an event for Garden State (2004)
  • Natalie Portman and Zach Braff in Garden State (2004)

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24 February 2004 | JoshRoessler
10
| Wonderful Effort From First Time Writer/Director Zack Braff
I really loved this movie. I mean, really. So it surprised me to come here and find it rated so low.

By no means is this a perfect movie. It can be slow or awkward from time to time and there are one or two moments that just don't work. But. By and large I was really impressed.

It's a great little story with just the right balance of comedy and drama, full of quirky characters and interesting performances. Ian Holm demands attention, as always, and Natalie Portman's Sam, while offputting at first, definitely grew on me as she grew into a real character.

But the real story here is Zack Braff. It should surprise no one who has ever watched Scrubs that his performance keeps the movie together; or that he is able to create a jokey, distant, somewhat sarcastic character who also elicits real empathy from the audience and manages to emanate deep wounds. What amazes me is the work he has done here as a first time writer/director.

First off, there is an actual narrative here with meaning and relevance. Too often, the big Hollywood movies will have a plot that resolves itself, but means nothing; on the flip side, independent movies almost seem to disdain plot for mood and thematic concerns. Braff is able to weave both together--a difficult task for a young writer. The dialogue is witty, plot situations intelligent and creative, and overall the writing is just--good.

As for his directing, there are a few odd choices. I'm still not sure I like one scene the main characters are screaming into a deep ravine and the camera sweeps away into said ravine. It just tossed me out of the movie a bit. I'm also not completely sure what to make of the movie's ending, which I won't go into further except to say that I felt it almost changed the focus of the movie up to that point and made it about something else. However, there are moments of absolutely beauty as well, here. The entire scene where Sam and Andrew talk in his friend's pool has some great shots, and Braff's comedic flair and timing are evident in his directing style, which still manages to pull back for the more dramatic and poignant moments.

I urge you to see this movie. It's not a "big" movie. It was never meant to be. But I have little doubt that, once it finds an audience, it will be remembered for years to come. Sort of a modern day Graduate with a more hopeful outlook on life.

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