Saturday, April 30, 2005

Overlooked DVD of the month - GARDEN STATE

GARDEN STATE is certainly not an overlooked movie if you ask anyone on the festival circuit. In fact, it was one of the most hyped movies of 2004. However, as it received a fairly limited release in the UK, I am taking this opportunity to big it up in advance of its DVD release next week. The movie is a pretty sweet, wistful romantic comedy starring and directed by Zach Braff, of SCRUBS fame. It also features Natalie Portman as his love interest, Bilbo Baggins as his dad and Peter Sarsgaard as his best friend.

The movie is worth watching for a number of reasons. First, it manages to create a wonderfully hopeful yet lamenting tone. This is because it balances some fairly dark material - medication, death, resolving family conflict - with the standard rom-com fare. It features a character called Andrew Largeman, played by Zach Braff, who is hitting that painful part of life when you realise that you are no longer in that cool post-college phase, where you still have stuff at your parent's house and can get away with goofy behaviour. He is now an adult. It's time to work out whether he is being correctly medicated and actually engage with life. These revolutionary thoughts are triggered by his decision to go back to Jersey for his mum's funeral, and the ensuing confrontation with his domineering father. This being a fairly conventional romantic-comedy, Largeman "meets cute" a resoundingly cheerful chick with lots of kooky eccentric Indie-movie habits, and she facilitates his return to real life.

The sound-track of the film is also central to creating the tragi-comic feel of the movie and has become almost more famous and admired than the movie itself. It showcases a bunch of indie bands like Remy Zero and The Shins, while revisiting cult classics like Nick Drake. Which brings to me to my closing point. GARDEN STATE is a neat film and you should be sure to check it out. I really liked it, but I don't think it is The Great White Hope that some have made it out to be. Indeed, it is fairly derivative of movies by Wes Anderson and often-times feels a little self-indulgent. Sometimes you just want to press the fast-forward button, and the final scene is just pure schmaltz and undercuts the earlier edgier tone of the movie. Moreover, the whole issue of taking/addiction to/mis-use of prescription drugs is treated in a fairly off-hand manner. For all these reasons, I don't need to see it again, but I do listen to the soundtrack all the time. And for that, I am happy to have seen the movie.

GARDEN STATE showed at Sundance and London 2004 and was released in the UK last December. It is released on DVD next week.

1 comment:

  1. Is it as good as the Elizabethtown soundtrack?

    While the movie felt more like it was TRYING for something than it was DOING the thing it was trying for, it was a decent one-time view. Portman's character was a little too "unique" - almost exactly in the same way as Duntst's character in Elizabethtown. As if every young man's dream girl is a cute, stumbling, quirky, yet brilliant, and ever-chipper dreamer.