Aug 16, 2012

Garden State [2004]


Written and directed by Zach Braff, Garden State is a weird, rather pretentious movie that failed to really impress me. Everything seemed too perfectly awkward and amazingly hipster, with a large dose of misunderstood melancholic state that absolutely didn't feel realistic, and not even a little bit adorable.

OK, maybe I'm being too harsh on it, let's go back to the beginning. Garden State tells the story of Andrew Largeman, a wannabe actor who is forced to return to his hometown in order to witness the burial of his mother. He then gets reacquainted with some old high school friends (Peter Sarsgaard being one of them) and meets a sweet, wacky girl, named Sam (Natalie Portman). It's basically a character development story; you may even called it a coming of age one, and usually I'm all up for it, because I love these kinds of scripts, but this was just....slightly unbearable. If I were the quitting type, I would have done it by minute 15, but I'm not, so I stayed until the end, and I don't regret it that much, since I did see a couple of scenes I liked. I understand and appreciate the fact that it is a personal story for Braff and that it is, in a way, autobiographical, but sometimes just didn't click for me.

From a filmmaking point of view, there's nothing particular to say about the direction or the cinematography- they didn't stand out, good or bad. As for the screenplay, as you might imagine, I'm not that positive about it. I understood where he was going with the story, with the idea of quitting drugs and finally experiencing life, but I thought most of the dialogue was a tad too clicheic, if that is a word, and even a little bit lame. Again, it was almost screaming from every letter and phrase, "look at me, I'm so awkward and melancholic and misunderstood, but underneath all that I'm such a cool, beautiful person". Now, I'm not applying this to the whole movie- I actually liked the screaming into abyss scene and the bath one between the two lovers (that was an honest, sweet moment); it actually started getting interesting in his last day in town, with the whole hunting for Large's present but overall, yeah, it didn't do it for me. I did love the soundtrack, that was definitely a strong point.

As for the acting, I won't dwell too much on it, but I will talk a bit about Natalie Portman's character. Most of time, I really didn't knew if I absolutely loved or hated her. Sometimes she would be sweet and caring, other times her forced wackiness would just completely put me off. I still don't how I feel about her. What did you think of her character?

In conclusion, if you want to watch Garden State, I suggest you don't. Please, just try something else: when's the last time you saw a 1950s movie? Or a musical? Just rent Beauty and the Beast, I 'm 100% sure you will like it more than this.

14 comments:

  1. Like you said, its way too cliche in what its trying to be. Portman's character was certainly a unique and driven person and I dig her philosophy and outlook on life, but it was just too much after a while. Being awkward is not cool, being unique is and they really didn't strive to communicate that point as much as they enjoyed relishing in the awkwardness and hipster-osity.

    If anything, just watch The Graduate, its like the exact same thing but with Dusty Hoffman so its better.

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  2. Hello Gregory Roy and thank you for the comment, I appreciate it! I'm glad to see we agree, I thought I would be one of the very very few who didn't like it. Also, you're totally right in suggesting The Graduate- I really liked that movie, Dustin Hoffman is such a wonderful actor!

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  3. Funny, for me GARDEN STATE came along at just the right time since I was Largeman's age when it was released and I started having similar feelings about where I grew up.

    I'll always remember the line:

    "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."

    It felt that way for a while...for me at least.

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    1. I love that line, it does have a lot of truth in it, I understand why you would feel strongly about it.

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  4. I liked Portman's character and her performance, but the film was decent at best. That soundtrack was, indeed, great though.

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    1. Thanks Josh! Decent is a good word for it :)

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  5. I remember my former boss said her teenage kid LOVED this movie but I'm just never that interested in seeing it for some reason. Well now that I read this I better just avoid it altogether.

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    1. Yeah, I'm sure there are others better out there :)

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  6. Yeah same for me - great review by the way! I liked the film but it was forgettable, really nothing special. This is the kind of film hipsters love - you know weird for the sake of weird, pseudo original etc. I did like Natalie's character - she wasn't the best but years after it's her I remember best of this film.

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    1. Thanks Sati, glad you liked my review, but the movie, just like me :P

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  7. I liked this film, but didn't love it. I've never felt the urge to watch it a second time.

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    1. Yeah, I don't have that urge either

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  8. I've loved the song from The Shins since seeing it in this film. They also used it in an episode of Scrubs.

    I'm just a fan of Zach's work. Though I would prob also still choose Beauty and the Beast over this film (as you suggest), I still enjoy this film! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ziwr4f5eR0M

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    1. I like Zach, too, he is very funny in Scrubs, but this just didn't do it for me. Nice to see there are people there who still want to watch Beauty and the Beast :)

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