Skip to main content

The Vault: Garden State (2004)


After the death of his mother, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) faces returning to his hometown for the funeral. The moment is a contentious one for him: his career hasn't taken off since his performance as a mentally-challenged teen in a football film, he's left all of his anti-depression meds in California and then there's the prospect of reconnecting with friends he hasn't seen in years.

After leaving home, the presence of a void looms in Andrew's life. His father (Ian Holm choosing an American accent that isn't New Jersey-ish) has never forgiven him for his part in his mother's death and Andrew isn't sure he can forgive his father for holding that grudge. Their relationship is strained enough, yet pushed further when considering that his father is also his psychiatrist. If he is ever going to move on with his life, he will need to make some drastic changes.

In the process he has a chance meeting with Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl whose extroverted nature helps Andrew figure out who he really is. Her way of life offers such an unique prospective on life that Andrew is simultaneously intoxicated and alienated by Sam.

Zach Braff is wonderful as a wayward son just off his depression medication, Natalie Portman provides a good counter as Sam, and Peter Sarsgaard excels as Mark whose sleaze requires no embellishment.

Braff (serving as writer, director, and lead) made a fantastic directorial debut. The first acts of Garden State were hilarious. In a genre that sometimes focuses too much on the more dour aspects of life, some scenes crackle with delight. As it went on, the pace of Garden State adjusts itself many times during the film's run-time. With its characters changing, so must the flow of the film.

A promising beginning for a new talent, we shall see where Braff goes from here.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.