Dubby’s dvdiscussion : Going Home To Garden State


Garden State is most definitely The Graduate (1964) of the new millennium because like the old Mike Nichols movie, Garden State not only describes a generation, it defines it while laughing at itself and asking you to share the fun, the insights and the hundreds of little discoveries that blossom in Garden State. Critic Bret Fetzer says, “Zach Braff (from the TV show Scrubs) stars in his writing/directing debut, Garden State and pulls it off with unassuming charm. An emotionally numb actor in LA, Andrew (Braff) comes back to New Jersey after nine years away for his mother’s funeral. Andrew avoids his bitter father (Ian Holm) and joins old friends (including the superb Peter Sarsgaard) in a round of parties. Along the way he meets a girl Natalie Portman, with demons of her own; bit by bit the two offer each other a little healing. Braff has an eye for goofy but resonant visual images, an ear for lively dialogue, and a great cast.”

Braff talks about Garden State that had critics raving at the Los Angeles Film Festival: “I feel like the best stories to tell are the ones that you really experienced and know. So a story about coming home to New Jersey after not being there for a long time, and being reunited with your family and friends, was something that I understood. I also wanted to tell a story that was really honest about what it felt like to me to be a twentysomething in the year 2004. I hadn’t seen a film in a long time that was sort of taking the state of the union as it were, to be where it felt like me and my peers were at this point in our lives.

One thing in a romantic comedy is, they’re really good people. They might have one little character flaw that they work out by the end of the movie. And by the end of the film everyone walks off into the sunset and everything’s good. My film ends with the line ‘What do we do?’ The characters have evolved and changed a little but they still have no idea how to move on.” When asked if the idiosyncratic family lives in Garden State were realistic, Braff replied, “Oh yeah. That’s my experience. I don’t think there’s any such thing as the typical family. I have an adopted sister from Mexico and I have a Conservative Jewish family that grew up in New Jersey. And she was raised as a Mexican child, raised in a Conservative Jewish family. Obviously there’s a character that’s alluded to along those lines in the film. And I have friends who live with their mothers and they’re like best buddies, and smoke pot together, and hang out together. And these are all things that fed into the movie – possibly quirky, but all real people.”

Writer Grant Kempter goes into much deserved rapture saying, “Through a series of relatively small events, the most influential of which is meeting the quirky and likeable Sam (Portman at her most adorable), Andrew begins to slip off the restraints imposed on him by a lifetime of prescribed medication and finally feel emotion for the first time in years. In accordance with real life, the bad comes with the good, yet while delayed grieving for his mother — and the reasons behind her death — start to seep in, Andrew embraces it all. Braff’s perceptive screenplay is excellently written, his dreamy, subtly comedic and understated direction is admirable (as is his eclectic choice of soundtrack) and his performance is first rate. It’s an absolute joy to see Natalie Portman providing a kind of captivating display. Sweet, funny, warm and undeniably unique, Garden State is a priority — questioning life lesson that reminds us how to live without giving away all the answers.”