For starters, the state of New Jersey, USA is called as The Garden State. The meaning of Garden State baffled me for four months till I saw a billboard in Forrest Gump which said, “Welcome to New Jersey, The Garden State”.
Garden State is awesome, speaking as bluntly as is possible.
Garden State revolves around Andrew Largeman, an actor who is drifting in life. He has no direction in life per say, primarily, my guess is due to the medications he is on which make him completely fucking numb, emotionally.
The character of Andrew Largeman, of having no general direction in life and not being able to feel his emotions is such a relatable one. To everyone in college, drifting in between classes to what they really want to do. To what is the meaning of life, or not being as happy as they thought they would be, or simply being unable to give their emotions enough time or process them. The issue of life just going on and on and you not even hating it. You nothing it.
The movie starts with Andrew Largeman going back to his hometown in New Jersey, the Garden State. Andrew lives in Los Angeles, where he is an actor who had a big role in a movie a while back but has been still since then. Coupled with the fact he is on meds, he aims through life with no aim and no strength for to launch a struggle against it. Back in his hometown, due to some impulse, a deep hidden wish, Andrew stops taking his medications. In that time, when he is off his medication, he lives. He makes new friends, drives his grandfather’s old scooter which has a basket sort of at the side (I’m forgetting the proper term). Meets old friends, and fixes his relationship with his father. But most of all, Andrew realises that his life is his, and how for his life to be amazing, he has to take charge of it.
Garden State is Andrew Largeman’s journey of becoming better. It’s a story about just a man, but one which resonates with almost anyone in the 18-25 age group who will watch it. In Andrew Largeman or any of the other characters in the movie, there’s a good chance you’ll see yourself or somebody you know.
Zach Braff, ladies and gentlemen, is quite possibly the true star of Garden State. He is the lead actor, the director, and writer and also designed the soundtrack for the movie, which eventually went on to win a Grammy.
There is a stamp of authority and realism on this movie. I believe it’s because Zach Braff has himself stated he based the movie on his own experiences while drifting in life when he was in his mid-twenties.
Zach Braff has done an amazing job in all the departments. He transcends the movie to being life like. The life of a man in motion, but with awesome background music, especially The Shins. The Shins stole my heart with “New Slang” and Coldplay and Frou Frou mad me fall for them with their well-timed songs. I was jealous of Andrew Largeman for having such great background songs. I’m pretty sure other people will be too. Which speaks volumes about us. Normal sane people jealous of an emotionally numb out of work actor for having great background music. Can’t have everything, disappointingly.
New Slang was one of the stars of this movie. Every person I’ve recommended this movie to has most often fallen in love with sex things: Andrew Largeman, Natalie Portman’s acting, the screaming scene (Yes, there is one. And it is one of the best I’ve seen), the dialogues and vocal interplay, Zach Braff and the soundtrack, especially New Slang by The Shins. I still listen to New Slang at times, in the summer morning when the sun is not too harsh and the air is still not full of heat. New Slang is an amazing song. It will change your life.
Zach Braff’s acting as Andrew Largeman is top notch. He shows a straight face at the start of the movie in every situation. As the movie progresses, he starts showing more and more emotion. And finally, the end of the movie is his return to the land of the emotionally sane, if that’s a thing. Zach Braff’s technique was impeccable. It didn’t feel too abrupt or stagnant. It was just right. Smooth.
Then there are Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and Ian Holm, the three most important side characters in my opinion.
Natalie Portman plays Samantha “Sam”, the eventual love of Andrew Largeman. Andrew meets Sam at a clinic and Sam, being a pathological liar herself, hits it off with Andrew. Sam and Andrew have their moments, showing us how broken they are, and how it doesn’t matter even a little bit.
Peter Sarsgaard, of Jarhead fame, plays Mark. An old childhood friend of Andrew. He works as a grave digger, where he often steals the jewellery decorating the dead. On first impressions, Mark comes off as a wheezy, get high, do all drugs. Get wasted, fuck life, and fuck emotions kind of a guy. But there is depth in him there. Mark’s character was riveting as well, with all his oddities. Peter Sarsgaard played Mark perfectly.
Ian Holm plays Andrew Largeman’s father, Gideon Largeman; also, his doctor. Gideon has always prescribed the medicine for his son Andrew, and like every parent, wanted the best for his son and himself. This has driven him to the point of obsessing over making his family happy. To go back to a time nobody even remembers.
The characters are the genius of the script. There is Andrew Largeman and these three, but there are also some very very side characters who give us light into some part of Andrew Largeman’s life or some wisdom.
In every movie, the lead characters has good depth and fleshing, it’s a must. But a great movie has great side characters as well, with their own side stories and fleshing out. Their own pains, travails, hurts and what not.
I’m just getting warmed up here. There is still so much more to tell all of you. So many more beautiful scenes, so many more laughs and ideologies. Garden State is truly one of the most under-rated and fantastic movies I have ever seen in my life. I could go on and on and on and on about how I’ve seen it three more times since the first time about two and a half years ago and how I’ve rewatched it in bits and pieces, here and there about over a hundred times. Or how I recommend this movie to everybody or how it has place in my Top 10 movies list (which is under construction, as always). Like Star Wars or Good Will Hunting or Up in The Air or Piku or Dil Dhadakne DO or Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I could talk about this movie till the wee hours of the morning, till the sunlight is not as harsh. Then I would play New Slang.
Garden State! The one and only! Garden State is one of the most under-appreciated movies of all time. Most people I talk to have never seen this movie. Hell, most don’t even know it exists.
Garden State is a must watch, especially or the 18-25, like I’ve written in the article itself. Garden State is a gem of a movie which works on so many goddamn levels. It’s easy to brush aside a movie like Garden State thinking it won’t be amazing, but it’s movies like these which make get you. Like Half Nelson. Another amazing movie, starring Ryan Gosling in one of the finest movies he has ever acted in. These movies deserve to be seen so many times, because they are just that good!