Garden State (2004) Review

Garden State (2004) Director: Zach Braff

“Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.”


Widely known in my adolescence for being the quintessential high school indie-hipster breakout romantic comedy film, Garden State is the complete product of writer, director, and actor Zach Braff. Its soundtrack was particularly notable in the early 2000s featuring the likes of Coldplay, The Shins, Colin Hay, Iron and Wine and others.

Garden State is about an ordinary guy named Andrew “Large” Largeman (Zach Braff) who is summoned back home from Los Angeles to New Jersey after his invalid mother dies. While back home we see him in various scenes of total detachment and alienation –such as parties and taking drugs. He visits a psychiatrist where he accidentally meets a quirky, epileptic, pathological liar named Sam (Natalie Portman) –the epitome of the “manic pixie dream girl” stereotype. They slowly develop a romantic relationship over several days leading Largeman to question whether he should return to the West Coast. Perhaps the most iconic scene shows Largeman and friends standing atop a tractor at the edge of a massive crater donning trash-bags screaming into the abyss.

Garden State is a charming little movie that somehow makes ordinary suburban life in New Jersey seem enchanting or special in some way. It forces us to think about the nature of homecoming, or nostalgia for a place that may not be real. The film was shot in various locales in Braff’s home state of New Jersey on a tight budget of $2.5M earning $35M at the box office.

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