Tag Archives: Zach Braff




FEATURING: Zach Braff, , Peter Sarsgaard,

PLOT: A small-time actor, doped up on heroic doses of antidepressants, returns home to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral and finds love with a quirky lady while working through his family issues.

Still from Garden State (2004)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It ‘s quirky, not weird (and, by the end, it’s barely even quirky anymore).

COMMENTS: Originality is hard. There’s a moment in Garden State where Sam, Natalie Portman’s epileptic paralegal, stands up and spazzes out while babbling randomly in an attempt to do something completely original. Andrew Largeman, our narcotized small-time actor protagonist, is skeptical, and asks “so no one’s ever done that?” Sam’s response is “no, not in this spot.” Garden State gives us a meet cute, a manic pixie dream girl, and the power of love as an instrument of personal growth; the unavoidable stuff of its genre we’ve seen many, many times before. To make up for being unoriginal, the movie also gives us Kenny Rodgers funeral covers, knights speaking Klingon, and Method Man as a peepshow-running bellhop. No one’s ever done any of that before—at least, not in that exact spot on the quirk spectrum. Garden State is really two different movies. Before it launches into the romantic comedy, the first third is a deadpan comedy of alienation a la The Graduate (it’s no accident that Simon and Garfunkel appear on the soundtrack). So deadened that he’s unable to enjoy playing spin the bottle with a beautiful, possibly underage girl during an ecstasy-fueled orgy, Braff conveys some idea of what it must be like to have your emotions submerged under an ocean of lithium. This part of the film is the most interesting. Dysfunction makes for better stories; the healthier Largeman gets, the less interesting the movie becomes. He goes from seeing the world as bizarre and threatening to bizarre and welcoming—a saner, but less dramatic stance. Still, it would have been difficult (and possibly pointless) to sustain the initial mood of aimlessness for an entire film (The Graduate also had to leave it behind). What follows is Largeman slowly waking up from his pharmaceutical coma, helped by Sam and a stoner pal played by Peter Sarsgaard, as he goes on a therapeutic journey searching for the root of his emotional dislocation (which is where the excellent but underutilized comes into the picture). It may not be completely original (except for superficial quirks), and it’s not weird, but it is a good movie. Braff and Portman are hygienic and lovable, bringing an infectious spirit of youth that captures what its like to be lost and hopeful in your twenties. Add a Grammy-winning folk-rock soundtrack, and it’s no surprise that Garden State has become minor cult film.

The Garden State DVD is a lavish affair, with over 30 minutes of deleted scenes, another half-hour “making of” featurette, and two separate commentaries (one with Braff and Portman, the other with Braff and the crew).


“Stormy twentysomething emotions seethe under a deft quirkfest.”–Ed Park, The Village Voice (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Billy” who even wrote it up as a reader recommendation. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


The fourth submission in the June review writing contest: by “Billy.”


FEATURING: Starring Zack Braff and Natalie Portman with Peter Sarsgaard, Gideon Largeman and Method Man

PLOT: Andrew Largeman (Zack Braff) returns home to New Jersey to attend his mother’s

Still from Garden State (2004)

funeral.  While there, he realizes the funeral was only the beginning.

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST:   There is a family who repeatedly kills hamsters, grave robbing, argumentative spin the bottle, conversations in Klingon, marijuana, ecstacy and a man dressed up as a knight in shining armor.  Random moments through out the movie shine of weirdness and that alone will keep you glued to your seat.

COMMENTS: When you’ve finish watching this movie you may be puzzled.  I can see you now with that tilted head and unsure expression.  You will probably want to take a moment and allow the movie to ferment in your mind.  However, that doesn’t make a movie “weird” by itself.  But, considering the flashes of nearly 2 hours of surprise and complexity… I’m not sure if I have a better adjective to describe the movie.

Also, not to mention, the cinematography is amazing and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect.   It fits clip by clip and moment by moment with the movie and I recommend it to anyone. The movie, from beginning to end is strange and odd in the purest sense of the words.  All in all it is a really a great movie.


“This is not a perfect movie; it meanders and ambles and makes puzzling detours. But it’s smart and unconventional, with a good eye for the perfect detail, as when Andrew arrives at work in Los Angeles and notices that the spigot from a gas pump, ripped from its hose when he drove away from a gas station, is still stuck in his gas tank. Something like that tells you a lot about a person’s state of mind” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (contemporaneous)