Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring:||Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm, Peter Sarsgaard, Geoffrey Arend|
|Producer:||Gary Gilbert, Dan Halsted, Pamela Abdy, Richard Klubeck|
|Distributor:||Fox Searchlight Films and Miramax Films|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “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. Returning to his hometown in the Garden State, “Large” finds old acquaintances around every corner living quite unique lives as grave diggers (Peter Sarsgaard), fast food knights and the panderers of pyramid schemes.
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.”
“Garden State” is the directorial debut of Zach Braff, best known for his role on NBC’s “Scrubs.” The film, also written by Braff, tells the story of Andrew Largeman, an overmedicated waiter in Los Angeles who is known to others as the guy who played the mentally challenged kid in a made-for-TV football movie.
The film opens with him recieving a phone call from his father back home in New Jersey telling him that his parapalegic mother has drowned. Andrew flies home and is met by his father, with whom Andrew very clearly has no real relationship. His father, a psychiatrist, put Andrew on medications after his mother became paralyzed, and Andrew had never really forgiven him for making him “numb” to life. Ian Holm (“The Lord of The Rings” trilogy) plays his father, in a good, if not slighty underwritten role. Perhaps more could have been made of their relationship; the scenes with Braff and Holm are tense and well acted.
Andrew meets up with his old high school buddies once he arrives home. Childhood friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) is an alcoholic, drug-addicted gravedigger, and Jessie (Armando Riesco) made millions inventing a silent form of Velcro. While at the doctor’s one day, he meets Samantha, a sweet, talkative girl who he has immediate chemistry with. The two venture around town, have deep conversations, and fall in love over the course of the film.
Braff has fledged out well-written characters with very believable dialogue, but the characters themselves are depressing. Andrew’s friends are all basically washed up losers, who haven’t gotten out of the party scene and moved on with their lives. They are all searching for some kind of quick fix, some cure all to enhance their seemingly worthless existence. When Andrew asks his friend Jessie what its like having so much money, Jessie says “its boring”; he bought things to make him happy, but eventually realized they weren’t enough, and is now in search of something to fill the hole his money cannot.
“Garden State” is essentially a big hole. All of its characters are looking for happiness, looking for hope, looking for relief from their pathetic lives, and can never seem to quite grasp it. The film feels empty from the start, and the blank stare that adorns Andrew’s face throughout the entire movie is indicative of his lost life. There is a line near the end that sums up what all the characters are going through and how they feel; Samantha tells Andrew “That’s life. It’s real, and sometimes it ******* hurts, but that’s all we got.”
As Christians, we know that there is so much more to life. Jesus himself said “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly,” and all it takes is to turn one’s life over to God and stop trying to fix things yourself. Sadly, the characters in “Garden State” are much like those all around us, who will turn to anything for hope.
The film contains very strong profanity, with over 50 uses of the f-word. Drugs are seen throughout the movie as various people use them, as well as alcohol. And a very bizzare sex scene pops up near the end, in a scene that feels incredibly out of place in this film. The characters go to a hotel to pick up something, and the bellhop is seen allowing people to pay him, so they can go into a room, where various peep holes show us the hotel patrons having sex.
The film’s content is needless to say very inappropriate for children and teenagers, as is the film’s message.
“Garden State” is a well-written, very well acted film that never gets us involved, never really makes us truly care about the plight of its characters. It’s sad, but the “Garden State” is really an overwhelming state of emptiness.
“Garden State” ranks as a C.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme