Saturday, August 13, 2005

"Garden State"

I finally saw "Garden State" last night and despite the very cool soundtrack and truly charming performance by Zach Braff, I thought it was overrated.

It's a sweet little film. It was lauded for being quirky and unconventional. But how so? I feel like I've seen this movie a dozen times: emotionally closed-down guy comes home because of family crisis, has his heart opened by quirky gamine. I mean, are there not sixty basquillion variations on this theme in cinemaland?
Let me tell you how it ends: they're in an airport saying tearful goodbyes. He has to leave, baby, because he's got to go find himself, and she's left sobbing in a phone booth (which don't even exist in airports anymore, but I digress). Then suddenly -- what do you think? He shows up because he just can't live without her. She weeps, they exchange dopily hopeful dialogue, they kiss. And... scene.

Yea, we've seen that before.

Peter Saarsgard is great as the totally loser grave-digger friend who really believes he's going to be living off the profits from his Desert Storm trading cards collection someday. My favorite line, delivered in just the most subtly injured tone:
"Don't make fun of my hobbies, man. I don't make fun of you because you're an a-hole."

Natalie Portman is a beautiful, glowing girl but I just don't buy her as the uber-quirky, neurotic type. She tries too hard. When she delivers a pretty funny running monologue explaining how her African brother came to be her brother you can see her acting technique all over the place. That really bugs me. A lot. Ditto the first scene she's in, where she laughingly advises the embarrassed Largeman to kick the dog who's humping his leg. Not authentic. Studied. Technique-y.

However, she and Braff have real chemistry and when she doesn't have too much dialogue, she just shines.

Ian Holm is terrific as Braff's dad. LOVE him.
And again, Zach Braff is totally winning. I fell off the couch laughing at his character's brief attempt to look as though he knows how to swim. In a cut that lasts maybe three seconds he contorts his head in such a dorky way, and with such sincere effort, he had me in hysterics.

So, cute with some lovely moments. Overall, overrated.


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