Garden State (VHS, 2005)

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Garden State -- Zach Braff spreads his wings, Natilie Portman Shines

Feb 19, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:originality, believable characters, Portman and Braff

Cons:some weak parts to story, too much reliance on repeating themes

The Bottom Line: Garden State is an above average film about the struggles of a 26 year old, looking back on life.


Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in this film based on a 26 year old returning home after the death of his mother. Better known for his role on the television show "Scrubs", Braff showed that he has more than just acting talents when it comes to entertainment. We have here a film that goes deep into what "normalcy" really is, and the actual day-to-day events that real life provides you with. What we are left with is the husk of an idea that we can better ourselves, and shown the stark reality that we should make the best of what we already have.

It is hard to put Garden State into a particular genre of films, but instead to simply say that it is out on a limb by itself. It doesn't try to be one thing, nor fit into a cookie-cutter system that most films in today's industry try to adhere to. The innocence that Braff brings to the film, coupled with the timid ness of Natalie Portman, truly make this a film worth seeing. The chemistry that they portray on screen is something to be admired, because it is exactly as a relationship would be played out in real life. There is no script telling us what to do, and there is no guess-and-check system, where we can go back and fix out mistakes. Instead, we learn from them, and try to grow from them.

Braff is quite good as the main character, who is struggling to get past something tragic in his past, and with the help of Portman is able to see that life can offer up more than despair. It is because of this depiction though, that the film somewhat alienated me for the first 60-70 minutes of screen-time. Sticking with it, I found the ending to be what actually made the film watchable, and what ties together all of the ideas of the film. At times though, I think that those ideas are overused, and at times I struggled to not think that Braff wanted the main characters to go in a different direction by the end of the film.

While Garden State does stand out from a crowd of blockbusters in the field right now, there are some parts of the story that ended up letting me down a little bit. It was because of this, that I wasn't as pleased with the film as I thought I would be going into it. Maybe it is the dreary outlook with which all of the characters exist, or maybe it is the grim reality that this is what real life is really like, but at times I felt alienated as an audience member. It seemed almost as if Braff wanted me to think a certain way, even if I didn't believe that a particular character would do something that they ended up doing.

What is Garden State about? Well put more simply, it is about the journey that this young man must face not only in life, but within his own mind. He must come to terms with himself before he can be the strong person that he believes everyone wants him to be. Braff shows flashes of what he can do behind the camera, and I think that we have here someone who will be at the top of the game soon enough. With Portman, we have someone who is coming to her own in movies, and is distancing herself far from her Star Wars roles. I found her very refreshing, and she brings a distinguished quality to the film. In the end, I found the film quite likable, and give it extra points for originality. But in regards to being a great film, I was still left wanting more. I recommend giving this film a chance, but at the same time not expecting a Citizen Kane.


Recommend this product? Yes

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