Garden State (2004)

Whoever thought New Jersey was so depressing??

Having just weaned himself off antidepressants, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff, who also directs) returns to his New Jersey hometown after a decade away to attend his mother’s funeral and slowly begins to see his life in a new light. In the process, he confronts his psychologist father (Ian Holm) and forges a connection with a new friend (Natalie Portman).

Garden State is one of those films, that all 20 somethings in today’s world have always quoted and loved. Hell even my best friend’s sister, danced with her husband, at her wedding, to a song from this movie. I never understood all of the freakin’ hype until now.

Zach Braff does a great job in his debut directing/writing job. There is a lot of insight in here about how wonderful, and grand life is, but yet, it’s so short, that you shouldn’t take it for granted, and live out every second of it. Many films I know, have this same message, but the way Braff shows it, and doesn’t over play it, that it stays fresh, and it actually hits you, especially by the end.

The film kind of annoyed me a bit with its quirky stuff, but at times I didn’t mind it. I did actually laugh at a lot of this, and made me realize that all of this may be how real people actually can be. There is a great sense of alienation that Braff feels with these people around him, and we feel that, not just through his character, but from the direction he puts the film in. I liked the soundtrack, and a lot of it fits in with the film and it’s moments so well.

Probably the best thing about Garden State and why it’s going to live on forever, is these characters that Braff creates. Yeah, their crazy, and yeah, their not all that believable. But, their lovable, and you can’t shy away from the fact that they entertain the hell out of you. Largeman is in Garden State for a couple of days, and it’s great to be on this ride with him, because the characters are fun, quirky, and overall, just downright hilarious. Zach Braff does a great job of making his character the biggest loner in the beginning of the film, and then having him totally change, and become this fun, free-loving dude. Braff goes way past his Scrubs days with this one. Natalie Portman plays one of the best characters she’s ever played since Closer, and that’s saying a lot. Her portrayal as a slightly neurotic, compulsive liar who’s wackiness becomes very disarming (not an easy task), is worthy of high praise, mostly because her and Braff are fun to watch on screen, and their chemistry doesn’t feel forced or anything, it’s genuine fondness of one another’s personalities. Ian Holm is also good here, as the father that still holds a lot against Braff, and he has a good scene. Peter Sarsgaard is as usual, good, and brings a lot to his character, as the grave-digger, who we always wonder if he should be trusted or not. Also, be on the look out for a random cameo from Method Man. Always great to see him in random ish.

Basically, Garden State is a great film for anybody who likes feel-good romantic dramedies. That hit the core of the heart the right way. It makes you think about life, as well as makes you laugh about it, and just possibly have you thinking differently about it.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!


  1. Count me in as a lover of this film. When it was released I was going through a similar phase as Andrew – namely the feeling that the place you grew up in is no longer your “home”. So it was one of those films that came along at just the right moment and spoke to me.

    For a lark, I usually recommend people watch this as part of a double-feature, with THE GRADUATE making up the other half.

    Pardon me, I need to listen to some Shins.

  2. i just dont get this movie, it did absolutely nothing for me. having some cool indie bands on your soundtrack doesnt necessarily make for a great film

    • I know it doesn’t, it goes more beyond that, but you just have to have a certain feeling within yourself to like this film as much as me, and some other people do.

      • Err…I agree its not about having some cool indie bands.

        Its the story and the characters. Its been said to resonate with many 20 somethings. I certainly enjoyed it a lot. Its in my 50 best of the decade. The music just compliments all of it well. Though to be honest, I didn’t even notice the music much when watching it.

  3. I have to say I didn’t enjoy this movie so much. I’m a big fan of Zach Braff and there were some funny, quirkly lines scattered around. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big Portman fan, I don’t know. But I just couldn’t click with it at all…

    • Yeah I understand it’s a hard film to like, if you don’t like quirky indie films. Portman is the best she can be in this film, and I love it!

  4. When the bandwagon turned on Garden State I was kind of miffed. Luckily, that means they are far less morons pretending to like one of my favorite films.

  5. I saw this in the theater and loved it. It does have one of the best soundtracks in a long time. Whenever you get Simon & Garfunkel in there, I’m in! Braff chose a lot of the music used in Scrubs and The Shins, New Slang is in an episode from the first season. Am I geeky enough? I dig quirky indie movies when done right and this one hit it right. I would pair this as a double feature with 500 Days of Summer. I’m going to go to iTunes now and check out Splitting Needles!

    • OMGGG!!!! I love 500 Days of Summer, which is why I probably liked this so much. Great soundtrack, and even better film. Braff is good, and I can’t wait to see him back behind the camera hopefully again soon.

      • Love Garden State and 500 Days fo Summer as well! Just any sort of quirky relationships comedy like them I’m into really.
        High Fedelity is also a favourite.

  6. I definitely agree with the point about alienation – Braff definitely knew how to portray that feeling of detachment from society and its norms, although that feeling could also be celebrated…but that’d be a whole different film!

    However, with regard to Garden State in general, two words I once read in a review, which I think succintly describe this film, are “smug” and “contrived” – I would say that’s largely down to a cliché-ridden screenplay and cast, who embody the above two adjectives to the highest degree. As mainstream cinema goes, it’s relatively decent, and included some pretty good camerawork. As indie films go, it’s mediocre at best. For an accurate insight into the the heart-dulling gnaw of middle class ennui, I prefer to watch to films like “Broken Flowers”. B.F. manages to combine emotion and humour, without being highly annoying. I think I would have preferred Garden State in my teens. Much of the quirkiness felt forced, although I suppose “randomness” and “quirk” is often self-recognised and deliberate 🙂 To sum up, I felt that it certainly accurately depicted a phase of feelings we all went through in our teens, but I wish it had done so through a less whiney story with ever so slightly less self-absorbed characters. As for depicting the life of a 20-something year old…..these characters had way too much time on their hands – Not to knock spontaneity in other forms, but if these characters had to grapple with their issues and effectively juggle that with their full-time job and, at this stage, recession, I think they’d have less time to scream in a quarry! Perhaps if Braff revisits the characters in a few years, they will have learned a few things about life and attempting to avoid wallowing.

  7. i’ve always felt strange about not liking this movie as much as others. i felt it lost a lot of its steam in the last half, especially when portman’s character becomes a screen filler. after talking to a friend about it and reading this review, i think i’m going to have to give it another go.

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