(2004)  

Alan:

Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:



Warning, minor plot points revealed!

I knew going into this movie that I would love it so I was not the least bit surprised when I did.  I love Zach Braff on the TV show Scrubs so it was only natural that I would love a cool little independent dramedy that he wrote, directed and starred in.  

Garden State is a sweet (as in nice) little movie that is funny and makes you happy.  That's all it is and all it needs to be.   

The story follows a over-medicated young actor/waiter who comes back home to New Jersey for the funeral of his mother.  He decides to leave his prescriptions behind hoping that his mother's death and the trip home will allow him to to feel something again.  And that's just what happens.  He begins to open up to his psychiatrist father whom he has had little to no contact with in the years since he left home.  He hooks up with his old school friends who are pretty much just older versions of the people he left behind.  And he develops a quick fling of a relationship with a girl he meets at the doctor's office that quickly evolves into a deep attachment.  

That's pretty much the whole story but only in a very brief outline sort of way.  The film is filled with funny, cute, touching vignettes that advance and enhance the tale.  

Almost every review I've seen compares the film to The Graduate.  I suppose I could force some comparisons but just because a film uses a Simon & Garfunkle song does not make it The Graduate.   I would compare it more to last years also brilliant Lost in Translation

Speaking of music, this film definitely takes it's musical backdrop from Braff's show Scrubs as well.  It's a soundtrack that mirrors my own current music tastes so of course I loved it.  The Shins, Coldplay, Nick Drake, Paul Simon, Iron and Wine, and others.  Actually the Scrubs soundtrack is where I've found much of the new music that I've listened to over the last few years.  

The actors are all great in their roles.  Braff has a quality about him that I can't describe that just makes you like him and want to be his friend.  His character Andrew Largeman is like a depressed more reserved version of Dr. John 'J.D.' Dorian on ScrubsPeter Sarsgaard does a fine job as his stoner gravedigger friend Mark.  Ian Holm a.k.a. Bilbo Baggins plays the father who has never really forgiven his son for the accident that changed all of their lives.  And finally Natalie Portman is awesome as the quirky local girl who turns out to be exactly what Andrew has always needed.  I've liked Natalie Portman ever since her first film, Leon: The Professional and she has been in other great films I love like Mars Attacks! and all three of the new Star Wars movies. 

Go see Garden State if it comes to your theatre.  If not, then go rent it when it comes out on DVD.  It's a good movie that's worth a few dollars and a couple hours of your time.