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Garden State (2004)

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Written and directed by Zach Braff
Starring Zach Braff, Kenneth Graymez,  and George C. Wolfe.

By Shalini Nayar

With young debut director Zach Braff (from TV's Scrubs) at the helm of this film, it is a surprisingly warm and hilarious look at life in New Jersey (hence Garden State) through the eyes of a washed-up L.A. actor who returns to his hometown to attend his crippled mother's funeral. Braff also acts as the screenwriter, as well as the lead. He plays Andrew Largeman, estranged from his family for a decade and had been living on anti-depressents which has made him numb to his feelings, emotions and life.


After coming back for the funeral, he catches up some of his old high school buddies and he realizes, pretty much nothing has really changed. They still party, get high on booze and pot, and pretty much bum around. And they all have unique day jobs like a gravedigger, a cop, a fast food knight, an inventor of the silent velcro and a pyramid scheme entreprenuer. But deep down, Largeman yearns to discover and learn much more about himself.

He meets Sam (Natalie Portman) at the local clinic and forms a friendship with the pathological liar. What draws Largeman to Sam is the personality difference. Sam is everything Largeman not; naive, quirky and just bursting with energy. Together with Sam and his buddies, Largeman goes on a self-discovery journey of opening his heart to the joy and pain called life, as well as confronting some personal demons. He also tries to mend the troubled relationship with his father.


Zach Braff succeeds in pulling this off to be a kind of modern-day The Graduate, adopting the same coming-of-age values. He is perfect as the lead, and the humour is very dry and understated, which invites more laughter. The rest of the actors also do well in this film, thanks to a clever script and wonderful direction. Highly recommended.