Zach Braff’s popular arthouse film ‘Garden State’ gives its central character a meaty personal journey. Andrew Largeman is a B grade television actor working in Los Angeles when he receives a phone call from his Dad that his mother has passed away, and that he needs to return home to the Garden State, New Jersey, for her funeral.
Andrew kick-starts his journey by deciding to leave his bottle of lithium pills behind. He wants to try existence without the necessity of mind numbing medication. Living his life without being in a blur is just one of a huge range of experiences that Andrew goes through upon returning home.
Here’s just a taste of his odyssey. Andrew falls in love big time with cute pocket dynamo, Sam. He has encounters with many of his old friends including some who just happen to work as local gravediggers. He finally gets to have that special talk with his psychiatrist father who has so dominated his life.
There was a good natured, rambling way to ‘Garden State’ though it did run a familiar course as it came towards the end. I loved the films off the wall humour. I can’t resist quoting just two examples. Andrew comes across an old school friend on the street. His friend says, ‘I thought you were dead’, Andrew replies, ‘What?’, the friend says, ‘That wasn’t you?’, Andrew replies with the comeback, ‘No, no, tha- that wasn’t me’.
The other example was when Andrew makes an appointment with a local psychiatrist just to check himself out. He comes into the surgery, and takes a seat. Straight way, the psychiatrist, a Dr Cohen, says, ‘There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you’, Andrew replies, ‘Really’, Dr Cohen then replies, ‘Just kidding, how the hell would I know’!
Amongst the cast of characters, there were a few that I enjoyed. Andrew with his young, urbane, tongue in cheek approach to life…I enjoyed the character of Sam…Ofcourse it helps when you have someone like an in form Natalie Portman playing her role! I liked the character trait that was attributed to her ; her habit of compulsively lying. I thought it was character defining the way she wouldn’t be a passenger in Andrew’s sidecar! I thought Ian Holm was spot on as Andrew’s intense, concerned and over protective psychiatrist father. The other treat was Peter Sarsgaard as Andrew’s mate, Mark. Sarsgaard has just one of those swarmy, decadent natures that makes him always watchable.
Summing up, ‘Garden State’ was not the kind of film that knocked my socks off, but it was a good time in the cinema! I slot it in as a good, urbane romantic comedy, in a style similar in ways to Woody Allen. As a debut film, with Brack taking on due roles as writer and director, it’s undeniably a striking debut!