I saw Garden State at the Westcott Theater tonight. It's the first time I've been to the theater in months. The last thing I saw was Dodgeball (which, by the way, was brilliant, and I'm not kidding). Not going to pontificate too much, but here are some initial reactions:
+ Zach Braff does a nice job as the writer-director. I can't think of the last TV star to so confidently and deftly direct a feature debut. He uses some tricky camera angles and funky effects, but never at the expense of the story. It's always in a good context.
+ Loved loved loved the soundtrack. Some of The Shins, some Simon and Garfunkel, some Zero 7 and some Nick Drake. Beautiful mood music. Fit the film perfectly.
+ The theme of the film is really how too much organization is not good for the soul. In this film Andrew is numb, having been put on medications since he was a child. As he moves from organization to chaos, his life improves. His father's world is very sterile, very organized. But he finds himself as he travels to the outer realm of the Garden State. He meets people whose families are not the "ideal" that his own family seemed to be (Mark's, Sam's), but even though they are disheveled, they are filled with love and caring, of which his life is essentially devoid.
+ Finally! Natalie Portman puts in an adult performance, making good on the potential she showed as a young actress in films like Leon (aka the Professional) and Beautiful Girls. She is real and sensitive and very much like a person that you might meet.
+ Many people compare this to The Graduate, but in terms of tone, I definitely see this as closer to About Schmidt. A person, dead inside, dealing with death, growing accustomed to a strange and new life, with new people. But the protagonist in both films ends up being better off because of it. And though the stunningly gorgeous finale of About Schmidt isn't replicated here, the transformative redemption is.
Nice debut flick for the guy from Scrubs. B+