Review by Gordon Justesen
Zach Braff, Ian Holm, Method Man, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Zach Braff
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: December 28, 2004
may not always be as happy as you always dreamed we'd be, but for once, let's
just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are."
Every year seems to
have its breakout independent film success, and in 2004, that film was
writer/director Zach Braff's Garden
State. Rarely has a single film been so observant of its characters, and at
the same time had a story that was both honest and incredibly funny. Braff's
film, for all its original qualities, is a pure gem.
At its core, the
film tells a seriously themed story, but there are so many different elements
Braff has placed in the screenplay, which is why the movie is indeed an original
one. With its tale of twenty-something angst, and its hugely focused sense of
setting, in addition to music use, Garden
State could become The Graduate of
Braff stars as
Andrew Largeman, a disillusioned soul who has spent the better part of his life
heavily medicated and feeling numb. Living in L.A. and trying to make it as an
actor, Andrew is forced to confront his past when he receives news that his
mother has died. His journey back to New Jersey, where he's been away from for
nine years, will serve as a revelation, as Andrew rids himself of his medicated
state before returning home.
Returning to his
Jersey roots takes some time for Andrew. His distant father (Ian Holm) is even
surprised to see that he bothered to return home, since they haven't spoken in
almost a decade. Why did Andrew even leave home in the first place and why has
he distance himself as far away from home as possible? Those are the issues he
plans to face while he's in town.
After attending the
funeral, Andrew hooks up with an old high school friend named Mark (Peter
Sarsgaard), who now works as a gravedigger. Mark, who specializes in part time
drug and criminal activity, is a likeable soul who happens to relish the notion
that he's accomplished nothing in life. He exposes Andrew to some drug
partying, despite the fact that he is coming off medication.
But Andrew's life
is changed instantly when he meets Sam (Natalie Portman). He meets her at a
clinic where he comes to discover that she is a pathological liar. Once Andrew
takes notice of this, the two begin a purely honest bond. That bond leads to
By the end of the
film, Andrew, has come to realize that there was a true purpose to his
revisiting home. He has found true romance, something he never knew he could
experience. In addition, he has found the ability to overcome a longtime
medicated state and awaken to discover that life is indeed worth living. Lastly,
he has found the strength to confront his father about an issue that has kept
them apart for such a long period of time.
What Zach Braff has
done here is nothing short of remarkable. Garden
State can easily go on record as one of the best character studies involving
young twenty-somethings ever to be made. Braff, who is known to the television
community as the star of the hit sitcom, Scrubs, announces himself as a true triple threat as a writer,
director, and actor. The cast is universally excellent, as Natalie Portman,
Peter Sarsgaard and Ian Holm all turn in fantastic supporting work. Braff and
Portman's chemistry is stunning, resulting in easily the best romance to be
seen in any film in 2004.
State is high on my list of
the best films of last year. It's definitely one you can't afford to miss.
presentation is grand in every aspect. Zach Braff incorporates a vast number of
striking visual shots which resonate tremendously well in this transfer. Image
quality is that of persistent and complete clarity, with outstandingly natural
colors to boot. An incredible and terrific looking disc.
This film is solely
driven by the dialogue provided, but that's not to say that the film doesn't
carry with it certain bonuses. Music is heard in almost every single scene. The
soundtrack includes tracks by Coldplay, Simon & Garfunkel, The Shins and
more. Each song is wonderfully heard through the 5.1 mix, and the dialogue is
delivered as clear and strong as can be.
Fox delivers a
nicely loaded package with this release. Featured are two commentary tracks; the
first with Zach Braff and Natalie Portman; the second with Zach Braff, director
of photography Lawrence Sher, editor Myron Kerstein, and production designer
Judy Becker. Also included are 16 deleted scenes with optional commentary from
Zach Braff, a making-of featurette, a gag reel, and a soundtrack spot.