Garden State

It's obvious when you watch Garden State that it's Zach Braff's first film--and by that I mean the first film that he's written and directed. There are a lot of things wrong with it, from sloppy cuts to dialogue that becomes a little pedantic at times. But behind these beginner mistakes is a story that is incredibly personal and honest. Garden State is a movie about growing up, about the lost feelings that people get in their mid-twenties after their childhoods have ended but their adult lives have not yet begun. Braff wrote this movie straight from the heart, and so even though it wasn't perfect, there was a lot that really resonated with me. Braff, himself was only so-so for me as the main character--although my wife thought he was very good. The really interesting performances for me were Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portman. Sarsgaard has this sort of Malkovichian quality to his voice that has been hit-or-miss for me in previous roles, but he was so natural in this role that it makes you forget that he's even acting. His character, an old friend of Braff's, is wonderfully complex, at once a complete scoundrel and a caring friend. As for Portman, I think that at some point between Attack of the Clones and Cold Mountain she must have taken acting lessons. Gone are the one-dimensional, wooden performances that have haunted every film she did after Beautiful Girls. In their place is an actress who I intend to keep my eye on.

Viewed: 8/10/2004 | Released: 1/15/2004 | Score: B

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