tek's rating:

Garden State (R)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2004, but I didn't see it until 2019. It was written and directed by its star, Zach Braff, who later made the movie Wish I Was Here, which is considered a spiritual successor to this film. It's kind of weird for me that I saw the latter film a couple of years before I saw this one, so while most people who saw both films compared "Wish I Was Here" to "Garden State," I have to try to compare "Garden State" to "Wish I Was Here." And I can see some similarities between them, but they seem different enough to me that I'm not sure whether it would have even occurred to me to compare them at all, if I wasn't aware of critics and fans having already done so. What's even weirder, perhaps, is that I think I liked Braff's later film more than I liked this one, whereas most people preferred the earlier film. And I'm just left wondering how much of that is because of the order in which they viewed the films. If they'd seen them in the order I saw them, would they still have preferred the earlier one? (Of course the answer to that could differ from viewer to viewer.) For that matter, if I had seen this movie first, would I prefer it over the later one? And how much of my preference is just based on my imperfect memory? It's always hard for me to compare my appreciation of any two movies when a fair amount of time separates my viewing of each. And how much of it is just based on personal taste? Obviously, different people are going to have different tastes in movies, in general. In any event, I don't think it's that important which one I liked better, because either way, there's not too much of a gap between my feelings about each. (Incidentally, I'm also wondering if I would have put my review of this movie in my "quirky" section if I hadn't already put "Wish I Was Here" in my serio-comedy section, and just wanted to keep the two movies together. But again, not really important.)

Anyway... the movie begins with a plane experiencing turbulence, and it seems clear that it's probably going to crash. Everyone is panicking except Braff's character, Andrew Largeman, who seems completely apathetic to what's going on. And I couldn't help thinking I'd probably react (or rather, not react) in much the same way, if I were on a plane that was in danger of crashing. But I didn't have much time to think about that before Andrew woke up from his dream, because the phone was ringing. The answering machine picks up, and it's his father, Gideon (Ian Holm), who starts out talking about how he wishes his son would talk to him when he calls (I assume Andrew not answering the phone is a regular thing). But he ends the call by informing Andrew that his mother has died.

Soon after that, Andrew leaves Los Angeles (where he works as a waiter, but originally moved there to be an actor) and returns to his home town in New Jersey, to attend his mother's funeral. While in town, he reconnects with old friends Mark, Dave, and Jesse. He also goes to see a neurologist about headaches he's been having. In the waiting room, he meets a woman named Sam (Natalie Portman), with whom he soon starts spending a lot of time, and eventually develops a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, he has to deal with his strained relationship with his father, who is also his psychiatrist, and had put him on lithium and other medications when he was ten years old, following an accident that had paralyzed his mother, for which Gideon blamed Andrew.

And... I dunno, various stuff happens throughout the film, and it was all reasonably... hmmm. I'm not sure what adjective I want to use, here. I feel like "interesting" or "entertaining" or "pleasant" or anything along those lines would be a bit too strong. I suppose I'll just say it was okay. I didn't find any of it uninteresting, I just... I guess I didn't feel deeply moved by very much of the movie. But at least I found it more affecting (in a positive way) than I would find being in a plane that was about to crash. (Please trust me, coming from me, that praise is not as faint as it sounds.)


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