Film Reviews

GARDEN STATE

By • Jul 28th, 2004 •

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Camelot Pictures and Jersey Films
Running time 112 minutes / MPAA Rating: R

QUOTE: Boring and nothing happens. I didn’t laugh once.

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff), 26 years old, is returning home to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral. Andrew does not see New Jersey through the eyes of someone who loves “The Garden State.” Andrew is heavily medicated. This means he has very little input regarding the things that happen around him and he is sleepwalking through life. Andrew is not the kind of person you want to invite to enliven your party. Andrew’s psychiatrist father, Gideon (Ian Holm), began medicating him when he was nine years old. Apparently he has major psychological problems because his father introduced him to meds at such a young age, and his L.A. psychiatrist still feels he needs heavy-duty medication.

He runs into his old friends: Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) who smokes a lot of pot and lives with his mother Carol (Jean Smart). She is having an affair with a teenager. Tim (Jim Parsons), who invented noiseless Velcro, is now a stay-at-home millionaire. Andrew meets Sam (Natalie Portman) who is epileptic and a defiantly pronounced liar. They start an affair even though Andrew will be going back to L.A. to his middling career as an actor.

Nothing happens but it does not matter since it is a showcase for writer/director/star Braff. I liked him in SCRUBS, but he can’t hold together an entire film that is lavishly centered on him. He doesn’t have the necessary charisma. Though I must say that Braff is well aware of this since Andrew is emotionally anesthetized by drugs. He is an uninteresting drip. Was his father an incompetent doctor or did he really need drugs as a kid? Did he try to kill the family dog or drown a schoolmate? What happened to make Andrew so isolated from his mother and father? Is it easy to see friends after being gone for nine years and still fit in as if you left for a weekend trip?

Sarsgaard knows how to look at another actor and convey a strong sense of the character he is playing. He can deliver a line with enough sarcasm to make you pay attention to him no matter how small the role. When I see an indie low budget film like this it makes me wonder: Doesn’t a network star with a hit show make enough money to finance a decent script and hire a great director who could turn him into a movie star?


Cast:
Andrew Largeman: Zach Braff
Gideon Largeman: Ian Holm
Samantha: Natalie Portman
Mark: Peter Sarsgaard
Carol: Jean Smart
Tim: Jim Parsons
Dr. Cohen: Ron Liebman

Credits:
Screenwriter/director Zach Braff
Producers: Gary Gilbert, Dan Halsted, Pamela Abdy, Richard Klubeck
Executive producers: Danny De Vito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
Co-producer: Bill Brown
Line producer: Ann Ruark
Director of photography: Lawrence Sher
Editor: Myron Kerstein
Music: Chad Fisher
Production designer: Judy Becker
Costume designer: Michael Wilkinson
Music supervisors: Amanda Scheer Demme, Buck Damon
Casting: Avy Kaufman
Art director: Laura Ballinger

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