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on November 1, 2004
this is definitely a movie to see if you've ever felt like screaming into "the infinite abyss." braff creates a story that is honest enough to be touching, quirky enough to be real. his imagery is both profound and effective, almost primarily because of the sometimes dry, sometimes laugh out loud silliness of the dialogue and situations used to carry it. if you like armor, or crazy motorbikes, or hamsters, or love, this is the movie for you. if you've ever felt trapped, or numb, or rejected, or odd, this is the movie for you. if you like amazing music, talented actors, and incredible cinematography, this is the movie for you.

when i left the theater, i felt humbled, and amazed, and a little less alone. stunning technical elements aside, i walked out of garden state feeling good.
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on September 27, 2004
I found so much of this movie answered the questions i had been having in my life. It made me feel so good about what I have and ok with what I don't have. It made me see what is important in life. It sounds cliche to the maximum, but I laughed, I cried, and.....well I laughed more than I cried, but I left the theater (twice) with a complete and utter sense of awe. This is a spectacular movie.
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on January 4, 2005
Garden State is not phenomenal. The script is not genius, the acting is not Oscar calliber and, believe it or not, there are better sound tracks out there. However, this movie is pretty irresistable.

Zach Braff (writer, director and star) wrote the screen play for Garden State while in college, a fact made pretty obvious by the lovely angsty cliches. But in Braff's subtle hands, what could be tarnished by the shallow pathos of a twenty-something is allowed to flourish into a touching coming of age story.

The premise is simple and effective: Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a young man who has recently decided to "take a vacation" from the numbing antidepressants he has been on for a decade. He flies home from LA for his mother's funeral, and happens to meet a quirky beauty named Sam (Natalie Portman). As Andrew reimmerses himself back in his home town in the Garden State, he must deal with old friends, new love, and deep family issues. All within four days, of course.

Lucky for us, four days is equivilent to about a fast paced hour and a half. Natalie Portman steals every scene, with her charming lies and intense facial expressions. Although Braff and Portman don't seem to exude tons of sexual chemistry, their jarring interactions are flawless.

No, Garden State won't win a slew of Oscars. But it will win you over anyway, dead hamster or not.
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on November 30, 2004
I'll have to admit that for the first ten minutes or so of the film, the casual coarse language used by Largeman (Zach Braff)'s high school buddies seemed like a gratuitous and slightly strained reach toward "hipness," in effort to appeal to a younger generation of moviegoers. Blame this in part on my being on the other side of the generation gap. But as I began to know the characters better, it dawned on me that this WAS the younger generation (at least a real part of its disenfranchised subculture, one of which I know very little) and offers an honest representation of the way they speak.

There is a tremendous heart to this film, characterized when Braff, Natalie Portman, and Peter Sarsgaard's characters both literally and metaphorically unleash a scream into the "eternal abyss." Their pent-up frustration stems from the recognized irony that each of us is trapped in a world not of his own making with all of its seemingly irrational expectations and demands. Though we may anesthetize ourselves from the sad truths behind our sustaining myth of self-determination, we risk blinding ourselves to the great redeeming aspect of our existance: the love of the people around us.

Natalie Portman as Largeman's girlfriend, Sam, is utterly luminous here. Not to mention she made me fall in love. I am embarassed to say I had to wait for the end credits to discover who this wonderful actress was (I have religiously avoided the obscenely over-merchandised Star Wars films of late and knew little of her adult work since her childhood debut in "The Professional.") Meryl Streep -- your spiritual daughter and future heir is growing up quite nicely.

The film's great heroic act belongs to Sarsgaard's character who leads Largeman and Sam on a bizarre odyssey through the small town's seamy underbelly in quest of an equally bizarre "gift" for Largeman. His gift becomes an understated but moving act of redemption. Redemption is what the film is about. The fact that each of us posesses the power to in some way redeem one another is the movie's great hope.

I understand the squeamish who might balk at the R-rated language. But the lesson here is that there can be redeeming qualities (and even shared values) among those who don't quite view the world through the same eyes. Before you close yourself off from someone else's world that you don't understand, just stand there for a moment -- as on Boo Radley's porch -- and view the world from their shoes. The universe soon begins to look a little different. And a whole lot larger. Don't miss this one.
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on September 27, 2004
My girlfriend and I became so obsessed with this film that we drove 100 miles to see it in Hollywood four times since it wasn't showing in our town. We then saw it two more times when our town finally began showing it. The film is one of the few movies I can watch over and over again and never tire of it. The soundtrack is also very well put-together and makes each scene that much more enjoyable.
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on December 30, 2004
You ever have one of those "wow" moments after a movie? You know, the final scene darkens, the credits roll, and you just sit there thinking. It's like a good song or a good book: you just feel satisfied when it's over. Garden State gives you one of those moments.

One of the best things about it is that it's nothing like any movie you'll ever see. It's not a movie where you can coherently answer the question, "What's it about?" because the plot doesn't follow the average story line. I guess you could say that Garden State is about people. It's a love story of the highest sort. Not only between a man and a woman, but between a man and himself. It's the story of the most significant journey in a man's life--the journey home.

What really makes this movie stand apart from others is the writing. Zach Braff, who also directed and starred in the film, brilliantly crafted a screenplay that both connects you with the characters and allows you to examine your own life in their context. However, it wasn't brooding or dark in the least. In fact, you often laugh despite yourself throughout.

This is due only in part to the writing, as the acting is also superb. Braff really develops his character (Andrew) as the movie progresses. Natalie Portman shines as the quirky, lovable Samantha who absolutely transforms Andrew's life. All of the other characters are relatively minor in comparison, but they're all well played and accent the depth of Braff's character.

The soundtrack also gets an honorable mention. Featuring Colin Hay, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Shins (among others), the soundtrack is more than just background music. It adds to the mood and meaning of the movie. If my life had a soundtrack, and I wish it did, I'd want it to be this one.

A number of characters in Garden State talk about doing something unique, something like nobody else has ever done. Zach Braff has in creating this movie.

Best quote: "Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place."
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on January 31, 2005
I like Zach Braff; I think he's a funny actor. His show "Scrubs" is one of my favorite sitcoms on television right now. When I heard of this movie I was excited to see Zach directing in a film in which he plays a serious part.

After watching this film, I must say I didn't feel the way I was expecting to feel. I wasn't disappointed nor was I satisfied. From all the hype that surrounded this film, I guess I expected something a little more.

Zach Braff is likeable in this film. Although I didn't feel a connection with his character, I did feel sympathy for him. Zach plays the character very well. He proves that he can play a comedic role as well as a dramatic one. Natalie Portman's character, I found to be very annoying at first. Her hyper over-the-top character takes a while to tolerate, but never fully becomes likeable. And it's nowhere as good as Kate Winslet's wacky character in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".

I felt disapointed about several things about this movie. One huge thing that disappointed me was the fact that this film lack any emotional scenes. While watching the movie, I patiently waited for a scene where the characters show some heavy emotion, but every time one was about to happen, I felt that director Zach pulled back by adding some quirky humor. One scene in particular was one towards the end where Zach's character finally cries for the first time, but the scene just fails after Portman's character ruins the moment by acting quirky.

I also felt that the relationship between Zach's character and his father wasn't explored enough. I would have liked more scenes with them together where the sort out their differences.

The "adventure" the characters go on, if you can call it an adventure, felt kind of forced. The ending of the film also seemed a bit forced and cliched.

However, despite these setbacks, the film has strong moments. One of them is the opening dream sequence of a plane going down with Zach's character in it. I thought this scene would foreshadow something that perhaps would have happened in the end (which probably would have been better), but the scene is just there to show a disturbing dream. I like the party scenes and the scene at the pool. One of my favorite scene is one at Portman's backyard pet cemetery. This scene was probably the strongest scene emotionally.

The soundtrack is good and the imagery and sets are good to look at. I would recommend this film to someone who wants to see it so they can make their own judgement.

I do give credit to Zach Braff for making a decent directorial debut and for giving a superb performance. I look forward to seeing his future work and hope his next film will be much better.
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on December 14, 2005
I'd like to call it a dark Comedy but it's a sad dark drama. Each time I watch it I get something more from it. It's one of those movies that you grow attached to the characters each time you watch it.

"Large" plays an Actor/Waiter in L.A. living his life as a walking zombie due to the fact that he is on so many anti-depressants. He comes back to his home state, NJ for his mother's funeral after a nine year absence.

He meets up with all his old friends who seemingly haven't changed a bit from the high-school days of petty stealing, spin the bottle and pot parties. However this time it is different, he stopped taking all those horrible mind-altering drugs and starts to feel for the first time in years. Good, bad and ugly but to feel anything again is a wonderful thing.

He meets up with quirky Sam (Natalie Portman) and starts a friendship that blooms into a touching warm relationship. They both lend a hand to each other.

There are some scenes that are pretty meaningless like when he and his friend goes to meet up with a guy to swap money for a helium ballon machine which is actually in a hotel that has peep holes in the rooms where men are "enjoying" the "show." However, these non-functional scenes are covered up with clever camera shots and FANTASTIC music.

By the time I've watched this movie about 8 times, I realized the big draw is not just the movie but the soundtrack. A must! Buy it...you won't be disappointed. It will go down as one of my must have CD's (as well as DVD) of 2005!

It does have a happy ending with Large realizing he needs to stop with the prescription drugs and deal with the problems at hand and maybe share a life with Sam.
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on January 4, 2005
Garden State may resonate with older classic films like The Graduate, or more recent ones like Beautiful Girls, but the film still manages to carve out its own beautiful identity through wonderful characters, rich performances, and the meticulous, careful eye of its writer and director Zach Braff. It was also impressive enough to snag Braff The national Board of Review's award for this year's best debut by a director.

You may know Braff as the wacky Dr. John "J.D." Dorian on the excellent sitcom Scrubs on NBC. Though in Garden State, Braff does a complete 180 turn on screen and behind the lens, taking us on a journey of rediscovery, redemption, and love. Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a wannabe LA actor, who's only notable credit is playing a retarded quarterback in a made for TV movie. He leads a nearly comatose existence, terminally numb from any real feeling, largely due to the fact he is medicated to the hilt with every anti-depressant known to man. His hazy existence is abruptly interrupted when he's summoned back to his home state of New Jersey, after being informed via answering machine by his estranged father (Ian Holm) that his paraplegic mother has drowned to death in the bath. Don't fear; Garden State is a comedy above anything else.

Void of any medication back home, Andrew slowly begins an emotionally awakening as he cleanses his body and soul of years of somberness, which had been caused partly by a medicine cabinet full of drugs, and more so by the emotionally baggage he's been carrying regarding his now dead mother. He starts re-connecting with the familiar places and people of his past, and is ultimately transformed by Sam, a free-spirited, Shins loving pathological liar wannabe, played by a wonderfully funny and touching Natalie Portman, who steals almost every scene she's in. She accompanies Andrew throughout his visit home, and ends convincing him that life and love do indeed exist after Zoloft.

Garden State is further enhanced by great supporting performances by a superb Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Andrew's childhood friend and companion throughout most of the film. British thesp Ian Holm is also effective as Andrew's Psychiatrist Dad, who attempts throughout the film to reconcile with his son, and finally does if albeit a small way at the end of the film. The film is also rich with small, quirky performances by all the people from Andrew's past. All of that, partnered with a truly awesome soundtrack featuring the likes of the aforementioned Shins, Nike Drake, and Simon & Garfunkle, make for a long-remembered anthem for the 20-30 something's who are looking for one good thing to come along that changes their lives forever.

The Garden State DVD is chock full of extras, including 16 deleted scenes, most of which are extensions of scenes that made the final cut. In watching them, you will immediately appreciate the caution first time director Braff shows with sacrificing the overly dramatic and over written portions that got cut from the final film. The DVD also features two great commentary tracks, one with Braff and some of the other filmmakers, and the second, most enjoyable track which just features Braff and Natalie Portman, who exchange witty banter and give us insight into the real story behind silent Velcro, as well as exchange other quirky back stories that are just as enjoyable as watching the two act on screen. A "Making-Of" Featurette, and a short blooper real round out a comprehensive collection of special features that will make your Garden State experience all the more meaningful. It's a small film with a huge heart, and one of the best films of the year.

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on March 2, 2013
You might be shocked, but J.D. from "Scrubs" can actually write and direct a memorable and touching movie. I wouldn't call it a typical love story, but it is a great movie to share with one you love
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