Cert: 15 Runtime: 102 mins Director: Zach Braff Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm, Jim Parsons and Peter Sarsgaard
You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone
Well I have been around for a year, so this week I am picking one of my favourite films of all time as my blast from the past.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 (Ian Holm) 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.
Zach Braff’s “Garden State” manages to accomplish something that very few films have been able to do throughout the history of cinema. It is a film that speaks to an entire generation. 1947’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” spoke to our grandparents. “The Graduate” spoke to our parents. “Fight Club” spoke to our older brothers working dead-end jobs in the 90’s. But it is with the arrival of “Garden State” that our generation is spoken to, those of us born in the early-mid 80’s who are in our late teens and early twenties trying to make it by in a environment that seems all at once to strange and yet so familiar.This is a coming of age story with great charm and the most credit for that of course goes to Zach Braff. This movie is his baby, he’s the writer, the director, the star. As a writer he plotted out a great story. As a director he framed that story beautifully. And as a star he brings to life an incredibly compelling character. Andrew Largeman has never really had a life to speak of but when he returns home everything changes in a matter of days. And Braff wonderfully captures the feeling as Andrew takes his tentative first steps out into the world. Braff is certainly helped by the fact he has a wonderful performer to play off of in Natalie Portman. She plays Sam, the quirky girl who changes Andrew’s life. Andrew falls for her immediately and why wouldn’t he? She’s the type of girl who once you get a hold of you never want to let her go. But will Andrew allow himself to embrace the possibilities presented by this new relationship? Or has he been scarred too much to ever really love at all?
All in all Garden State is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It’s fascinating to watch Andrew try to finally construct a little life for himself. It’s emotional as you watch him try to come to grips with his past. And it’s heartwarming as you watch him begin to love this young woman who comes out of nowhere to change his life. Braff is very good in playing Andrew but it’s Portman who is really the scene-stealer. Sam is a strange young girl, a compulsive liar who somehow is still relentlessly charming. And at least she admits she’s a liar and apologizes for it. Sam is vulnerable, she just chooses to protect herself in a different way than others might. Portman captures all this girl’s myriad quirks beautifully and creates a truly memorable character. Braff plays off of her and the chemistry between the pair is probably more than anything else what really makes the movie work. At its heart the movie has that great coming of age story. And Braff shoots the film beautifully, a visual love letter to his home state. The collection of songs Braff chose to use in the film fit so well, the soundtrack ultimately picking up a Grammy Award and serving as the final perfectly fitted piece to a very well-constructed film. In the end Garden State is a charming, entertaining and thoroughly satisfying film.8.9/10