out of 4
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|*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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