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3.9 out of 5 stars
Garden State - Special Edition [2004] [Blu-ray]
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This film suprised me. I went into it knowing very little about the story but thinking it may be interesting to see what Zach Braff had to offer behind the camera (usually a good way of seeing how their mind works). As a consequence of this I starting watching it with a blank mind and no pre-conceived ideas. In retrospect, I think this may have been what they were aiming for as I was in pretty much the same mental state as Andrew (Zach Braff) is in the film - a numb zone where the world seems to be going faster than him, he feels he is always one step behind but doesn't have the energy to get out of the rut. The fact that his psychiatrist father (Ian Holm, I am a big fan!) is the one who's been dosing him all through his childhood is a nice twist and adds an interesting, if slightly underused, subplot.

As the film progresses over the last couple of days before Andrew takes off for pastures new, he stops his meds and this is where the direction and acting come into their own. It would be too easy to ram that fact down the viewers throats, but the very gradual re-awakening of Andrews senses and the bizarre journey he takes to find a suprise present for him with his girlfriend (a very talented Natalie Portman - George Lucas, you should be ashamed) and old friend (an equally excellent Peter Sarsgaard), which include perfectly timed comic moments which you can recognize from your own experiences (the guy in the hardware store anyone?) are dealt with at a strolling pace. Sometimes this pace of enlightenment is difficult to get right, but as the film wends its way from one well shot scene to another, you realize that you've been sucked in on his mental and physical trip and that you are really enjoying the ride. His journey really ends 15 minutes before the end of running time with a moment of release on the edge of a bottomless abyss (it makes sense in the film, honestly) and as I watched this, I realized that I was smiling a big, deep, warm smile. Films like this don't come along too often and when then do they blind-side you in all the right ways. Excellent acting and direction all round, so get yourself a big cup of tea, some chocolate digestives, then settle back, watch and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2011
Let me start by saying great soundtrack! Any film with Coldplay and The Shins in it gets at least one star for the songs!
But now, the film itself. I did enjoy it but personally, I found the film slightly disappointing. Many may disagree, I'm sure, but I've concluded I just didn't get parts of this film. It seemed very slow-moving to not much reward. I love independent films and I love quirky, non-Hollywood/World Cinema movies etc. However, I don't think this one was quite for me and just didn't seem to hit it off, maybe I did not understand it, but i did try.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying the movie is a complete disaster; there are some very amusing moments within it. Zach Braff plays as the deadpan lead role very well and his coming out of his shell is interesting to watch but I just never felt like the film actually went anywhere; I was expecting some kind of finale, a twist: something to shock me - a scene that would make me happy but it just never seemed to come. (I am purposefully not mentioning the ending which in all honesty is slightly predictable so the satisfaction just wasn't the same.)
It was recommeneded if you liked 500 Days of Summer but to be honest, I didn't enjoy Garden State to the same extent; but, I did enjoy it nevertheless, and I have seen much worse films in my time.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2012
One of my favourite movies of all time, I saw this six times in the movie theatre. Granted, I worked at a cinema at the same time, I paid for it five times at different theatres. Sadly, my theatre only had it for less than a week in limited release- and I had to go elsewhere, taking different sets of friends to see it.

It is a movie about a 20-something character named Andrew Largeman, who has gone off to seek his hollywood invested dreams.
Due to the recent death of his mother, Andrew is called back home from California to attend her funeral.

Back story:

Andrew, known as "Largeman", is from a small town in New Jersey, which is better known as the Garden State. Since a young age, Andrew has been prescribed different medications to keep him happy or rather subdued from his father's point of view. His father being a psychiatrist was the one that put Andrew on the medications in the first place.

Out of anger, when a young Andrew has an episode in which he physically pushes his mother, she falls and smacks into a dishwasher, which then causes her to be wheelchair bound for the rest of her life.
Andrew's father has blamed him since, although it was an accident due to the latch of the dishwasher being faulty.

Coming home, Andrew decides to stop taking the meds and starts to awaken from a life of being numb and for once actually be in the present moment.
Along the way, he meets up with old friends from high school, goes to a party but still feel detached and distant to those around him. While awaiting his doctor appointment for recent headaches, Andrew meets Sam, a girl that will change his life from that point onward.

Sam is bad pathologically liar, as she always feels bad lying and will come back around to let people know. Sam is quirky, seizes the moment and expresses herself in the now, which Andrew has had little practice in.

This is a coming of age story, with love in the mix.

Should Andrew go back to Hollywood to follow his dreams, although they might be pipe dreams and a way to escape his childhood-or- stay with the one he loves, that has changed his life for the better, and make a life with the unexpected?

I CANNOT WAIT for this Blu-ray. I have been waiting a long time, since blu-ray became mainstream for this to come out.

On a personal note: At the time, I was also a 20-something, freshly graduated from uni, and didn't have a clue on what to expect in life. I felt this film resonated something within me that made me feel connected with what Andrew, the main character was going through, that being choices in life, as well as relating to Sam, with her quirky state of being.

The soundtrack is another factor into why the movie is so great.

x
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"Garden State" is a delightful, quirky film, geared to entertain with its eccentric characters and bizarre, dark humor. A coming-of-age tale long overdue, this is a magical, edgy romantic comedy, (that guys will enjoy), with some hilarious moments, as well as a few tremendously moving ones. And the acting is excellent! I was left with a warm and fuzzy feeling for hours after the conclusion - a welcome change from the film I saw prior to this, which gave me a headache!.
Zach Braff wrote the intelligent screenplay, directed it and plays Andrew Largeman, a twenty-six year old who hasn't had a feeling since age nine, when his psychiatrist father, (Ian Holm), medicated him with almost everything available on the pharmacological market to block anger, anxiety, and depression. (The reason for the pill consumption will be revealed in the movie). Since Andrew was always too zombied-out to consider changing shrinks, he has been on meds every since. All Dr. Largeman wanted, and wants, (so he says), is for his son to be happy. Originally from the great state of NJ, Andrew now lives in LA where he pursues an acting career and works as a waiter. He's best known for his role as a retarded quarterback in a TV series.
Dad calls Andrew one morning to inform him his mother died, (she drowned in the bathtub), and asks him to come home for the funeral. In his heart and mind Andrew knows you can't go home again - he hasn't even tried for almost a decade. However, his mom's funeral is a worthy enough cause to justify his return to the Garden State. When he boards the plane, he leaves his pills behind.
After the funeral, Andrew studiously avoids his dad and reunites with some boyhood friends. Almost all are major underachievers. Pal Mark works as a grave digger...who occasionally robs the dead, and is almost permanently attached at the mouth to his bong. His mom (Jean Smart) is, literally, a space cadet. Another buddy works at a medieval reenactment restaurant as a knight, and wears armor to work. The group's success story is Jesse, (Armando Riesco), who invented a silent substitute for Velcro, has made mega money, and gives great parties. Into this crazy mix comes the luminous Sam, (Natalie Portman is absolutely terrific here)!
Andrew visits a neurologist because he is experiencing brief but acute headaches. He meets the free-spirited Sam at the doctor's office. She is totally charming, fresh, and has epileptic seizures - something she does not tell Andrew for some time. He gives her a ride home and she invites him in just in time to bury her pet hamster. He gets to attend yet another funeral, this time at the family's overpopulated pet cemetary. The combination of zero meds in his system, the knowledge that he can indeed cope without the prescription cocktail, and Sam's warmth, courage and acceptance, allows Andrew to open himself to emotion again. He is even able to confront his father.
"Garden State" is a perfect date movie, also good for rainy days and Saturday night at home with popcorn. The scene at the abyss is memorable - something to look forward to!
JANA
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 November 2013
The first half hour of Zack Braff's debut as a writer and director establishes him as a filmmaker of immense talent, and I
hope he'll get to make more films soon. It's opening act high captures a youthful sense of upper-middle class depression,
alienation and ennui as well as I've seen, with comedy that makes you hurt inside, and inventive visual story telling.

After that the film comes down to earth somewhat, but it's still full of goodies. Peter Saarsgaurd in particular creates an
unforgettable supporting character while being complexly understated.

This story of an depressed actor in his late 20s returning home after 9 years has a lovely mix of quirky humor, and
well-earned sadness. Braff satirizes small town America without putting it down, and pokes fun at depression and
family tragedy without it feeling shallow - neither very easy feats. Great use of music as well.

Where the film falters for me is in the love story, which feels bizarrely familiar and unimaginative compared to the
storytelling all around it. Also, while both fine actors, I never really felt any great chemistry between Braff and
Natalie Portman. In some ways Braff's relationship with Saarsguard feels more nuanced. Last, Portman's character
feels so young, so unformed next to Braff that it's hard to believe she's ready for a serious relationship.

The very end has received some justifiable carping from critics as a bit of a cop out, but it didn't bother me nearly
as much as such things usually do.

But all that said, this is a terrific debut film, and a terrific film about being young and lost.
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on 16 February 2010
Actor Large (Braff) returns to attend his mother's funeral and when he meets Sam (Portman) he decides to stay home longer where he begins to rediscover his past.

The romantic genre was dominated in 2004 by a brilliantly different Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind which showcased two renowned stars in Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet playing a troubled couple who have memory erasure of each other and the film set and ideology kept intrigue right till the finale, much the way this does in a less obvious romance but a powerful drama.

Renowned funny man Zach Braff from Scrubs branched out into a starring film role and directional outing with this critic winning independent film that is finally shot and executed as a drama, combining genres well to leave the viewer feeling happy and rewarded as if stepping into a cold shower on a hot day.

Beginning with a montage of Large's life as an actor we can establish his character as a quiet man with not much enthusiasm for life that leaves his existence feeling rather empty and on his return to his home town, his life starts to change when he attends parties, speaks with his father and meets Natalie Portman's Sam, a quirky girl with her own personality and agenda to match.

As tackling the romance genre, this is perhaps a less obvious attempt at guy meets girl. There is plenty more going on to label it amongst the Hugh Grant brand of love stories. The screenplay tackles family drama and the struggle of the past that has hindered between the relationship of father and son. Whilst it isn't close to matching the works of a Pedro Almodovar, this is a brave attempt that isn't too complicated and isn't too far fetched. And whilst intentionally sad, doesn't generate as much sadness as perhaps it could have done.

Braff himself taking a step out of the brilliant Scrubs sitcom, demonstrates that he has the potential to do more than fall over in a hospital. He dives deep within his character to reflect on the struggle of guilt and forced loyalty to others. Because the American has tackled directing, writing and starring in the same film, you wonder whether he tackled a tad too much. There are moments when you think a stronger lead would have been required, and yet thankfully nothing hinders upon his direction.

The scene in the outer world as it were on top of the van screaming into the valley is great, the motorcycle sequences are done without fault and the first party he attends at home has all the right montages and shots to generate a feeling of uniqueness that reflects upon the isolation his character is feeling. Portman likewise may not be at her strongest but her character certainly has a few cool quirks, such as the concept of originality in the moment and her ability to tell lies.

The climax feels a tad thin and a conformity to the romance genre but what we have here is a drama that fulfils its purpose with dramatic real life construction of family and personal problems that encodes some humour along with a reflecting and relaxing soundtrack that epitomises the mood and is definitely worth catching.

7.5/10
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on 6 October 2007
If you normally skip "indie" films, see this one. You will be glad you did. This movie is story driven and you want to follow it to the end. It is hard to believe that Zach Braff wrote, directed and stared in this film. Why is he wasting his time on TV? The writing is top notch, acting superb and photography well done.

Zach Braff comes home for his mother's funeral after years of being away. Of course coming home brings up all the reasons he left and never returned before. And he has to deal with and resolve these problems. That is both perceived and real. His portrayal of going home and meeting old friends and family seem very realistic to me.

Eventually we have the ever-beautiful Natalie Portman enter into his life and she starts to accompany him during his last days with his friends of his youth. Her character as well as some quirks she needs to work through.

The characters in this movie have their own unique ways about them. And get just enough screen time to fill out the story line and seem real. The movie takes us through a range of emotions. And yet there are a couple of classic scenes that you will find yourself laughing at.

The soundtrack of this film is as enjoyable as watching the film was. A mix of golden oldies and fresh indie-pop, this is a mellow sweet collection. The sound track stands on its own merit. But the beautiful music of "Garden State's" soundtrack serves as a poignant reminder of the movie.

Unlike other's who have written bad reviews I think that this quirky movie stands on its own and is worth seeing. Watch it with a date.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2015
I have loved this film for a long time now and when I needed to replace the DVD I thought I may as well upgrade to Blu-Ray! The difference in quality is surprisingly noticable (as I never seen to notice the difference with other titles) and adds to the fantasitic, simple experience this film has always offered. Zach Braff has an interesting style of direction that really shines in HD, would thoroughly this product specifically (not just the film!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2012
This is a brilliant little Indie flick, with very few errors made throughout. I'm more than glad I bought the DVD, and there's no reason why YOU shouldn't.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I adored this film, truly. It's characters are well developed and believable without being predictable or cliched. The people have real problems and cope with them, or not as the case may be. I didn't really want to watch this film to start with, I was talked into it by a friend (I love you for it Lorna) and now I'm watching it (and crying) for the second time in 24hrs. You can understand his struggle to surface from the numbness and to start to associate himself with life again and not cut himself off from it.

synopsis: andrew largeman hasn't been home for nine years since his mother became paraplegic (is that right? i cant spell) and in a wheelchair. He is home for four days, and meets all his old friends and sees how they have changed and stayed the same. His friends, however screwed up, show him how to seize life again, and he begins to feel.
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