Garden State is a 2004 film written and directed by Zach Braff, known for his role in the television series Scrubs. The film stars Braff as Andrew, a heavily-medicated actor who returns to his hometown in New Jersey after his mother’s death. Natalie Portman stars in a supporting role as Sam, a girl Andrew meets when he returns home. The film even features a cameo from Jim Parsons before his breakthrough on The Big Bang Theory.
I’m just going to start this off by saying I absolutely love this movie. Garden State does a terrific job balancing the comedic elements of the film with the dramatic story. It ranges from a simple chuckle at Andrew triggering multiple sensor sinks, to a full out laugh at his aunt’s singing at the funeral. While there are comedic elements of the film, enough to make you think you are watching a comedy early on, Garden State definitely leans more on the side of drama. As the film progresses, most of the comedy starts to fade away for the plot to focus on Andrew and his transformation. It revolves around Andrew and his realization that he has waited 26 years for his life to start, but while he was waiting for it to start, it began without him.
Andrew and Sam share many similarities - both are mentally unstable individuals, who look to cover up their life for different reasons. Andrew uses drugs to help hide the guilt he felt, or thought he felt, for his role in his mother’s accident. Because of this he never got to grow up – he never learned how to connect with his parents, or to even how to swim, and was whisked off to boarding school when he was deemed a nuisance. He became so numbed by the drugs he was prescribed that he was never able to live, and was constantly protected from everyday life. Likewise, Sam uses lies to cover up her own life to prevent others from getting too close. She is a compulsive liar, and whenever she starts to reveal too much of herself, she lies to cover up her true self. As the film progresses, we see Sam lie a little less, in order to let Andrew in.
Garden State’s soundtrack is easily my favourite aspect of the film. The music is based around largely independent bands who at the time of release where unknown commodities, but the song selection really works with the movie. Bands like Iron & Wine and Frou Frou contribute some of my favourite songs of the film. My favourite would have to be “New Slang” from The Shins, and it is from this film that I began to listen to so many different artists that I would have normally never heard of. Garden State is one of the very few movies that I can consistently re-watch and never get bored of. It’s the kind of film that I imagine not every person would enjoy the same as myself, but for me it works.