Movie Review: Garden State


I’m long overdue in posting my review of Garden State (2004) which Susan and I watched on DVD a couple of weeks ago.

A movie set in a New Jersey with a soundtrack full of hip music and Natalie Portman, what’s not to like?  Well there are a few things I didn’t like.  Too much flashy, MTV-style editing, close-ups of Zach Braff staring morosely at the screen, and like Running With Scissors the soundtrack can be blaringly obtrusive.  The end of the film is far too clean cut and formulaic, I think the movie would’ve been better ending about 15 minutes earlier.  Who in real life falls completely and truly in love in four days anyway?

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed Garden State immensely.  The movie is the story of Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff, who also wrote and directed) an actor who returns home to New Jersey after a long absence after his parapalegic mother drowns in the bathtub (how she gets in the bath in the first place is not explained for when they actually show the bath in the movie it has no railings or anything else to assist a disabled person).  The four days following the funeral are an intense period for Andrew becoming reaquianted with old friends, avoiding and finally reconciling with his father (Ian Holm who has grown and gained a Jersey accent since being Bilbo Baggins), and meeting and falling in love with a young woman named Samantha (Natalie Portman).

When you get past the philosophical exposition and the message points, what I really like about this movie is that it is a series of bizzare events.  I think everyone has days like this where just a lot of weird things occur one after another, and I think the movie captures this believably.  I especially like the series of events that leads Andrew, Samantha, and Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) to the bottom of a mysterious quarry where the least dysfunctional family in the entire film live in a houseboat.

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