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Garden State

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Garden State

Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman
Director: Zach Braff
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm, Kenneth Graymez, Method Man, Austin Lysy, Gary Gilbert, Michael Weston, Jean Smart, Alex Burns, Ann Dowd

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Every generation, it seems, has its alienated youth-coming-of-age picture. Think "The Graduate." Think "Reality Bites." Now, 28 year-old actor/writer/director Zach Braff of NBC's sitcom "Scrubs" stars in his own quirky romantic comedy riff on crossing the bridge to maturity.

Andrew Largeman's (Braff) journey begins when he's summoned home to suburban New Jersey to attend his mother's funeral. Not only was his mother a paraplegic but his psychiatrist-dad (Ian Holm), has been prescribing medications that have so tranquilized Large, as he's called, that he's been emotionally numb for years. Having forgotten his meds in Los Angeles, where he's an actor on a television series, the clueless Large suddenly finds himself facing real life without sedation. It's easy connecting with funky old friends whose life is as lost as his own - like a stoner (Peter Sarsgaard) who works as a grave-digger - but then he meets ditsy Samantha (Natalie Portman), a cheery compulsive liar with problems of her own. Over a bizarre four-day period, their poignant relationship grows, as Large realizes he doesn't have to be lonely anymore.

As writer, Braff has concocted an intriguing premise with empathetic characters, a few of whom get lost in the shuffle, like Sam's appealing African "brother" and a classmate who invents silent Velcro. As director, Braff elicits the most charismatic Natalie Portman performance since "Beautiful Girls" and, visually makes the most of many sight-gags, including the inherent lunacy of working as a knight at Medieval Times. But, as an actor, Braff seems to channel Ray Romano, whose genial, earnest persona was better suited to the small screen. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Garden State" is an amusing, absurdist 7, endearing in its sweet solemnity.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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