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Garden State Review

By Evan Zawatsky 01/08/2004

Evan is a young man who emailed me a few days ago about another movie review that had been submitted to me and took me to task about it.  I asked him to write a review of a more recent film called Garden State (especially since I still haven’t seen it myself), and this is his review.  Enjoy, because his review makes me want to at least check it out (plus, I’m a big fan of “Scrubs.”)

It seems as if too many movies in this day and age are either based on a book, a true story, or both.  Zach Braff, in his first feature film, does a remarkable job in producing a movie that possesses a sense of originality and an overall appeal that can be respected by all different types of movie enthusiasts.  Not only is Braff’s direction and screenwriting unique and clever, but his acting calls for praise as well.  As a 26-year-old actor, Andrew (Braff) returns home for the first time in nine years in response to the death of his mother.  We learn that he has been taking prescription medicine for years, and he finally stops taking them for the first time.  Braff does a superb job in showing Andrew’s rediscovery of himself, as the character learns that it might not be so bad to walk in his own shoes.  As Andrew reconnects with his childhood roots, he meets Samantha (Natalie Portman), his love interest throughout the film.  Portman is truly amazing throughout the movie, bringing grace, emotion, beauty, and a general congenial charisma that the audience cannot help but fall in love with.  As Andrew rids himself of the drug he never needed, he finds that Samantha is his new drug that he can’t live without.  The chemistry between these two was near perfection, and it was intriguing to see how these two very different characters were able to grow closer and closer together.  As a medicated actor from L.A., Andrew is bland and pretty ordinary.  Samantha is the clear antithesis, acting as Braff’s foil in the film.  This is best shown when Samantha cries over Andrew’s mother’s death, having not even known her, while he cannot even shed a tear.  She strives to be a unique individual while leading a unique lifestyle, having dozens of pets in her house and an African-American brother (Ato Essandoh) her family adopted.

At the end of the film, Andrew goes on a day’s journey led by his friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) and Samantha.  It’s an entertaining series of scenes, which I feel symbolized Andrew’s own personal journey throughout the film.  Overall, the movie had its laughs, emotional scenes, originality, and the love story that is pleasing for the female viewer.  The main message of the movie is that it’s not where you are but who you’re with that really matters, a statement that is pretty hard to disagree with.

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