Garden State (2004)

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8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking film with a good soundtrack

Cult movie that is slightly overrated

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Garden State

Studio:  Camelot Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  January 16, 2004 (Sundance)/July 28, 2004 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

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Three’s a crowd, dude…

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) is a struggling actor in Hollywood who suddenly finds himself called home to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral.  Forced to confront his past and his father (Ian Holm), Andrew finds himself reunited with his old friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) and spending time with a new girl named Sam (Natalie Portman).  As Andrew tries to work out his past, he discovers himself for the first time in years.

Written, directed, and starring Zach Braff, Garden State is a comedy-drama.  The movie was critically acclaimed and gained a cult following.  The movie’s soundtrack featuring The Shins and other performers won a Grammy for Zach Braff for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Pictures, Television or Other Visual Media.

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No…not trying to mimic the endearing quirky nature of The Graduate at all…

Garden State garnered tons of attention upon its release.  Braff was still on Scrubs and the style and sort of “coming of age” nature of the movie gained a lot of comparisons to The GraduateThe Graduate (being one of my favorite movies) does have a feeling like Garden State, but Garden State doesn’t quite live up to it.

I really enjoy Garden State, but it does feel at times that it is trying too hard.  The movie sometimes is overly surreal and all the weirdness of the movie seems to undermine the emotional moments that it has.  There are some very tender moments in the movie, and it manages to do these moments without being too sappy (which is always a challenge).

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Yeah…I can’t actually wait to ditch you and get back to L.A.

I think Braff does a good job with the role especially considering he is writing-directing the film.  I think Portman is a little much and she gets on my nerves during the course of the film.  Peter Sarsgaard is always good and I love how can seem sleazy but compelling at the same time.  Ian Holm just doesn’t quite fit the movie but cameos by Jean Smart and Jim Parsons as a knight are fun.

The movie has a very surreal nature, but like The Graduate is augmented by the soundtrack.  The Shins are primarily used, but Braff picks a lot of strong music that essentially is a hipster’s love letter.  For that reason, I like and hate it.

As mentioned Garden State is good but tries much, much too hard.  The movie has some great moments, but like many cult movies, I always almost feel guilty liking it because I feel that it is just some mass love which is often undeserving or overrated.  I think in the world of Garden State that the movie isn’t very overrated, but slightly overrated…leaving it still a good, solid film.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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