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Garden State - DVD Review

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</script></div>{/googleAds}What a pleasant reminder that there is beauty in the breakdown! Garden State is as charming and deprecating as it is amusing and gentle, and the taste of visual puns that first time writer/director Zach Braff floats throughout the film are deliciously original. Theatregoers can thank the studios for giving Braff quite a lot of control on this debut flick; he is aware of the importance of filling his movie with more than just side jokes and quick gaffs. Evidence: a solid story filled with interesting and full characters. Verdict: Garden State is one of the finest comedy/drama films I've seen all year.

The opening of Garden State is Andrew Largeman's (Zach Braff) melancholic dream of a plane crash--the dismal foretaste of the news he wakes up to on his phone that his mother has died. His life is a somnambulant depression of eighteen years, and his return home for the funeral is marked by a reuniting of high school friends who have themselves become entrapped by the things around them. Their little New Jersey suburban existence is punctuated by ecstasy parties and barely concealed resentment for who they are and what they've become. Largeman's reintroduction to the world of semi-lurid Friday night flings is nothing more than a lonely continuation of his failing as an actor working part-time as a waiter in a Vietnamese restaurant. He suffers from "lightning storm" headaches, and copes by numbing himself to everything around him, as well as himself.

Andrew's father (the brilliant Ian Holm) is a distancing and distracted psychiatrist who has kept Andrew medicated for much of his life, though Andrew begins to suspect that the drugs he's on are actually holding him back. In a doctor's office to see a neurophysiologist, Andrew meets Sam (Natalie Portman), a free-spirited, self-proclaimed liar, who introduces him to some new music (the wonderfully creepy The Shins) and makes an impression on him that takes the film into its second act. Portman is joyous and nervous and funny all at once, and lends an immediate ray of much needed spirit and light to the film that Braff keeps deliberately drab and gloomy up to the point of their meeting. Andrew starts to "hang out" with Samantha and they discover that their lives intertwine so effortlessly, that it seems that fate, or perhaps just a lifelong series of carefully orchestrated events has brought them together.

Braff offers revelations of human contact through his witty, selfless writing. He embues each character with a clear destiny of choice and of emotion, and fills them with the overwhelming need to discover themselves, to work out the problems that are in their path. Braff wisely chooses to allow scenes to reach their full maturity, giving us insight into the motivations and fears of the characters, while providing a genuine hope and mystery as part of the film's intersection of the characters' past and present. In a beautiful moment of simple clarity, Andrew and Sam realize that they are too important to give each other up. They realize that in finding each other, they've helped start the journey to also find themselves. It's a well played moment, aided by the wonderful soundtrack, and it ends the film in an airport terminal, a bookend to a remarkably well-told story.

Braff has a huge following now with the 600 theatre-wide release of Garden State , as the sheer number of comments on his weblog indicate. I suspect a large portion of these are teeny-boppers. Despite the dangers of associating myself with such a crowd, I must agree with their enthusiasm for the film. It is an artful debut by a promising talent.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; making-of featurette; outtakes.

* Audio Commentaries:
o With Zach Braff - Writer/Director/actor; Natalie Portman - actress
o With Writer/director/actor Zach Braff; Lawrence Sher - Director of Photography; Myron Kerstein - Editor; Judy Becker - Production Designer
* Featurettes:
o Making Of
* Deleted Scenes - with optional commentary
o Century Pavilion
o The Audition
o Restaurant - kitchen
o Talk to the Hand
o Wallpaper Shirt
o Mezuzah
o Musical Themed Bar Mitzvah
o Kenny's Kid
o Suicide Room
o Stoned on the Couch
o Meeting Olivia
o First Talk
o Egg Babies
o Ritalin
o Interior Ark
o Bathtub Talk
* Bloopers/Outtakes
* Soundtrack promo Spot

Number of discs: 1

Packaging: Keepcase


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