Movie Review
Garden State
Garden State poster
By Craig Younkin     Published August 15, 2004
US Release: July 28, 2004

Directed by: Zach Braff
Starring: Natalie Portman , Peter Sarsgaard , Zach Braff

Running Time: 109 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $26,781,723
Leaves you wondering just what this talented young triple threat will do next.
Zach Braff is best known for his role on the NBC show, "Scrubs,? and much like a young Ron Howard this guy has staying power. Garden State is his first feature and is a spectacular first effort with heart, laughs, and insight as to what it feels like to be young and unaware of the direction that your life should go. In addition to that, it is also a delightful romantic comedy, and maybe one of the best I've seen since "As Good as It Gets.?

At the center of the story is Andrew Largeman (Braff), a struggling actor who played a retarded quarterback in a film but now mainly works as a waiter in a sushi restaurant. He has the look of a sedated puppy, medicating himself heavily so not having to deal with the pain of life and the very poor relationship he had with his parents. Andrew left his home in New Jersey when he was 16 and never looked back, but upon hearing of his mother's death, he adheres to his father's wishes and returns home for the funeral.

While back in Jersey, Andrew reunites with old friends who have either done little or nothing with their lives. One in particular is Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), who digs ditches for a living while stealing jewelry from dead bodies and conning retail stores on the side. He also meets Sam (Natalie Portman), a free spirited young woman who becomes Andrew's one and only bright spot.

In lesser hands this story of sad sacs and losers would have been handled in a sentimental sort of way, but Braff has real talent. He sees the beauty in these characters, exposing little quirks and touching anecdotes that make you admire them for being survivors instead of feeling sorry for them because their not winners. The humor here can also be hilariously off center. Braff's use of music is also very reminiscent of "The Graduate,? in that each song sets a very tender mood in helping the story move along. In particular, Frou Frou's "Let Go" should be an Oscar winner at the end of the year.

The performances are also first rate and finely tuned. Zach Braff and Natalie Portman are perfect together. His troubled young hero and her perky free spirit have a charming and easygoing chemistry with one another. And now with Shattered Glass and this, Peter Sarsgaard proves that he can take any supporting character and turn him into a movie within a movie.

Zach Braff is a young star to watch, and Garden State leaves you wondering just what this talented young triple threat will do next.
Craig's Grade: A
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'Garden State' Articles
  • Greg's review A
    September 17, 2004    Zach Braff creates the most realistic and thought-provoking characters I have seen in recent years. -- Greg Ward
  • Lee's review B
    August 13, 2004    This feature has an emotional agenda, but it?s also a uniquely funny take on how bizarre life can be. -- Lee Tistaert