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Garden State (2004)

  Directed by: Zach Braff
Written by: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Ian Holm, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard
Links: Garden State on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"A pleasant surprise" - a review by pearly

If you want to get into acting in films, the easiest way to do so is to write, direct, and star in one yourself, right? Well, so thinks Zach Braff, the guy most people would have known just as the guy from television's Scrubs, up until the release of this, his first film as writer, director, and star.

I went to see my first ever mystery movie at the cinema, and was pleased to discover that Garden State was it. I think all of my party were pleased by this news, though andy-j's main reason for joy was because he was sure that the mystery movie would be Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), a thought which mortified him.

Garden State is about a young guy, Andrew "Large" Largeman (Braff), who returns to his parent's home following the death of his mother, and picks up on his estranged relationship with his father (Ian Holm), but escapes whenever possible to hang out with friends, both old (Mark - Peter Sarsgaard) and new (Sam - Natalie Portman).

Introduced as this year's Lost in Translation (2003), the comparison initially annoyed me (I prefer to make up my own mind), but two-thirds of the way through, I could see that, regardless of whether or not I appreciated this information being given to me in the introduction, it was an apt comparison. The character of Large finds himself in a place where nothing is familiar to him (as in Lost in Translation), however, there is the added layer that this unfamiliar place is in fact the home in which he grew up.

This is quite an enjoyable film to watch. The narrative is quite relaxed, with more than its fair share of black humour running through it. The soundtrack is also quite easy on the ear; so much so, that I snarfled myself a copy of it.

Braff does an excellent job of managing all the pieces that hold this puzzle together, but it is Portman who steals the show as the funny guy (gal) to Braff's straight man. Her character is somewhat ditzy - that's not quite the right word, but it'll do here - and she pulls this off very nicely; much better, in fact, than her starchy role in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).

Garden State has a few more layers than it at first appears to have, and peeling each of them off as the film progresses is quite an experience. I enjoyed it a hell of a lot, and it's grown on me even as I've thought about it afterwards. Braff has been in Australia recently to promote the film, and he makes quite a good interviewee too. What's next, Braff?

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 29 Nov 2004

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