Zach Braff (from the TV show Scrubs
) stars in his writing/directing debut, Garden State
--normally a doomed act of hubris, but Braff pulls it off with unassuming charm. An emotionally numb actor in L.A., Andrew (Braff) comes back to New Jersey after nine years away for his mother's funeral. Andrew avoids his bitter father (Ian Holm) and joins old friends (including the superb Peter Sarsgaard) in a round of parties. Along the way he meets a girl (Natalie Portman) with demons of her own; bit by bit the two offer each other a little healing. Plotwise, Garden State
is familiar stuff, a cross between The Graduate
and a Meg Ryan movie, but Braff has an eye for goofy but resonant visual images, an ear for lively dialogue, and a great cast. The result is surprisingly fresh and funny. --Bret Fetzer, Amazon.com
Bittersweet romantic comedy directed, written by and starring Zach Braff. Andre 'Large' Largeman (Braff) is an out-of-work actor, originally from New Jersey but now living in Los Angeles, where he continues to struggle to come to terms with his overbearing psychiatrist father (Ian Holm) despite the 3000 miles that separate them. Having recently come off the anti-depressants that have kept him emotionally numbed for years, he is doubly stunned to find himself back in his hometown after receiving news of his mother's death. The process of confronting his emotional demons and reconnecting with the past is somewhat eased by a chance meeting with Sam (Natalie Portman), a happy-go-lucky young woman who at first appears to be all that Large is not, but helps him open up to the possibilities - and positivities - of life.