Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary by Zach Braff
and Natalie Portman. Feature Commentary by Zach Braff, Lawrence
Sher, Myron Kerstein and Judy Becker. Deleted scenes with optional
commentary. Making of featurette. Outtakes/bloopers. Soundtrack
ZACH Braff will probably be better known to UK television viewers
as one of the stars of medical comedy, Scrubs, but in Garden State
he branches out to emerge as a writer, director and actor of genuine
The film is a surreal, yet poignant and frequently funny journey
of self-discovery that will probably be embraced by the confused
twenty-something generation it is aimed at – but it has
a lot of crossover appeal as well.
Braff stars as waiter and actor, Andrew Largeman (or ‘Large’
to his friends), who returns to his New Jersey home from LA, to
attend his mother’s funeral.
The visit, however, forces him to try and provide some meaning
to his life, especially since he has been drifting through it
in a lithium-induced coma since a childhood act of aggression
confined his mother to a wheelchair.
Hence, Largeman seeks to be reconciled with his father (Ian Holm),
who also happens to be the psychiatrist responsible for putting
him on the lithium, while also hooking up with some old friends,
most notably Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), who is now working as a grave-digger
at the local ceremony.
What he doesn’t count on, however, is finding the love
of his life in the form of Natalie Portman’s kooky Sam,
a fellow misfit whose warmth and fearlessness give Largeman the
courage to open his heart to the joy and pain of life.
The ensuing film is a sincere and
heartfelt affair that strikes a particularly strong emotional
chord, while also providing some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments
We’ve been here before, of course, but Braff brings a great
deal of ingenuity to the premise, particularly in his brand of
A scene, early on, in which he emerges from his car, at work,
to find the nozzle from the petrol pump still attached to his
vehicle, is a stroke of comedy genius, and typical of the subtlety
of the visual gags (another scene, in which he is given a shirt
made from the remains of a relative’s wallpaper, is similarly
Yet for all of the oddball humour, the film also proves to have
great heart, not least in the way in which Braff develops the
relationship between Largeman and Sam.
Portman is a delight and imbues her character with just the right
amount of kooky charm, building a credible, funny and surprisingly
emotional relationship with Largeman, thereby providing the audience
with someone to truly root for.
But the rest of the cast is pitch-perfect too, whether it’s
Holm’s quietly under-stated turn as Largeman’s estranged
father (who is equally desperate to understand his son), or the
brilliant Sarsgaard, as a loyal best friend.
Braff’s use of music is also first-rate, with bands such
as The Shins, Frou Frou and Coldplay featuring prominently on
the soundtrack and invigorating key scenes, without ever threatening
to undermine them.
Garden State won’t be to everyone’s taste, given
its quirky style, but it certainly highlights Braff as an exciting
new talent to watch, while providing audience with a genuinely
uplifting and feel-good experience to boot. It is an emotionally
enriching affair for anyone willing to go with it.