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Garden State (2004)
Written and Directed by Zach Braff
One would have to wonder what Zach Braff would have going on in that mind of his playing the ever rambunctious JD on Scrubs. While I never watched the show religiously, I do very much enjoy it for the sarcasm that oozes out of John C. McGinley‘s body as well as how weird JD is. So it didn’t necessarily surprise me that he came out with his own film, I just would have thought he’d release something else by this point. Taking 3 months to write the script, it is a coming of age story of sorts with two people able to find each other through the chaos called life, though would otherwise be seen as “imperfect” to anyone else. One thing I agreed upon concerning the character of Sam (Natalie Portman) was how she wasn’t a “typical” character written from a male perspective, as stated by her in the special features. She wasn’t some incredibly hot woman with an urge to constantly take her clothes off and sports just so happened to be her favorite thing ever. Instead, a ying and yang sort of relationship was created between the two characters as he is very detached and almost emotionless while she is usually energetic and chooses to have as positive outlook in life, despite her mishaps.
Andrew (Zach Braff) has returned home after quite some time for his mothers funeral. Having been on any one type of lithium since the age of 4 with several other medications keeping him as sedated as would allow, it didn’t seem to faze him one way or another of the news. All on account of his therapist who also happened to be his father. Having decided to do away with the medications however has started to cause him headaches of which he ends up making an appointment for. While waiting in the Hospital’s lobby however is introduced to Sam by fate (more or less) as an encounter with a dog presents the two to converse. Though what Andrew doesn’t know is that Sam happens to be a psychological liar and after hearing of her waiting for her friend before going forward with his appointment, hears of someone being with her next. Dr. Cohen (Ron Leibman) is a renowned Doc who has certainly had his share of accomplishments, as his awards cannot help but spill over his wall (which was a funny shot). Saying that with the amount of Lithium having been on it was a wonder he could still function in some manner. Leaving Andrew with: “Of course you’re all right. You’re alive.”
He finds Sam waiting outside and asks why she was really there; “Charging..I’m a robot.” Eventually offering a ride home and taken to inside her house where he meets the family and sees the elaborate array of pets all around the house. Her mother asking for her to bury yet another dead pet after forgetting to take out a wheel in one of the cages. In what Andrew tries to make a lighthearted moment turns in Sam saying that the situation wasn’t funny and we see her generally apologize to the hamster, able to add yet another alluring aspect to this stranger having just met. Besides the fact of having come home for the funeral, Andrew is constantly recognized for his latest acting job in which he played a very special quarterback. Not the only one from the Garden State to have made it big in that old acquaintance, Jesse (Armando Riesco) had also made some money by inventing a type of Velcro, without the annoying sound that followed. Having spent time with his friends at a party, post Sam, the two become inseparable in the four days had. Any attraction between the two being confirmed as Andrew lets them know his reason for being put in boarding school, never having opened up before. The entire reason for his life having taken such a turn being the day that forced his mother to a wheelchair. Having pushed her and falling over resulted in her becoming a paraplegic, of which his father blamed him for. Forcing him on the medications as a means to suppress the anger so obviously held inside. The effect instead was making him into an emotionless cyborg that felt an enormous guilt with something thought to not entirely be his fault.
Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) decides to lighten the mood a bit by convincing Sam and Andrew to go on an excursion to find what was to be left as a surprise. Throughout the day they encounter each place being a bit weirder than where having just came from. Ultimately ending up at Albert’s (Denis O’Hare) Ark and the Infinite abyss, which is best summed up by the end of the scene:
(Felt kind of bad for Sarsgaard who had to just watch. Braff looks like an awkward kisser…what, he did)
Portman’s depiction of the apologetic yet pathological liar was one you certainly find yourself falling for alongside Andrew. She was awkward and twitchy and there was something genuine that made him eventually feel comfort in someone else’s company, she didn’t try to be perfect. She pushed him to be happy when he didn’t know how to have those feelings. They certainly had a great chemistry throughout that was worth watching. It does maintain a rather slow pace and if you’re needing to constantly be entertained with laugh out loud comedy then perhaps it’d be best to wait until viewing. There was a moment when Kenny, (Michael Weston) an old friend turned cop stops Andrew, who had decided to go joy riding one night that was as “LOL” as it got.
Overall it was one of those heartfelt movies that make you want to feel great about life. He didn’t even have to leave on the plane to know it was a wrong decision. But the movie was certainly a wonderful watch for many small reasons. Peter Sarsgaard was a personal favorite and I rather enjoyed the small bit by Geoffrey Arend (Super Troopers). Though the entire movie was full of enjoyable cameos including Method Man, why not right? The ending was definitely Valley Girl; “Gag me with a spoon” if anyone gets that but again, it wasn’t as though you didn’t see it not happening.