Garden State

by Alan Rapp on February 9, 2011

in DVD Reviews , Theme Week

  • Title: Garden State
  • IMDB: link

garden-state-dvdGarden State is one of those films I missed in the theaters and hunted down on DVD after a number of people had recommended it to me. I’m so glad I did! Zach Braff’s first time as writer/director produces a truly great romantic comedy with a heart bigger than even an infinite abyss.

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) leaves his struggling acting career and returns home for the first time in nine years to attend his mother’s funeral.  Andrew is disconnected from his family, and life in general, through a variety of medications that create an overall malaise.  The death of his mother and his return home begin a series of events that allow Andrew to reexamine his life and start to live again.

On his return to New Jersey Andrew meets up with old friends Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) and Jesse (Armando Riesco) and has an unexpected encounter at the doctor’s office where he meets Sam (Natalie Portman). 

A friendship develops between the two as Sam brings out feelings in Andrew that have been buried for years.  His growing love for Sam makes Andrew face his father (Ian Holm), the death of his mother, and the event of his childhood that altered his family forever.

Andrew’s metaphorical internal journey takes over the screen in an actual journey as Andrew, Sam and Mark travel across Jersey making stops at a hardware store, a hotel, and an infinite abyss.

The film is amazingly moving and effective and you just want to keep watching it over and over again.  Filled with unbelievably great music and moments both funny and moving the film also containts some great supporting peformances by Jean Smart, Michael Weston, Denis O’Hare, Method Man and Geoffrey Arend as Handi-World worker Carl Benson.

If you want to see how great a film Garden State is compare it to Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown.  Braff’s first film predates Crowe’s eighth film by a year and is superior in almost every single way in a similar story about a son’s return home to face the death of a parent and start a new romance.  Braff doesn’t have all the answers and leaves the film open-ended (much like Crowe’s Say Anything…) as to what will happen between these two characters. What he does have is a great eye for romantic comedy, and provides us one of the best recent examples of the genre.

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