I saw Garden State tonight. It was definitely good, but I got myself psyched up for brilliance, or at least something that spoke to me on a very personal level. There it fell short. Oh, as a hopeful screenwriter, it spoke to me, mainly as a guy who would love to write a screenplay that attracted Natalie Portman, then cast myself as the guy who gets to kiss her. That connection was made, wide and deep.
But as a guy who spent his formative years in Jersey (2/3 of my life, really), I felt there was very little to connect to. We are taught in screenwriting to come up with a great title, something that tells you what the film is about. When you’re stuck, or feel off course, you can go back to it like a compass. Garden State, however, is about its main character, Andrew Largeman. (Perhaps Largeman didn’t test as well.) Even though we both left Jersey for SoCal about 9 years ago, I didn’t feel we shared the same background. I felt Clerks “got” Jersey far better. This could’ve been set in many other states.
It’s a charming movie, though, and a great freshman effort. While the writing could have been tightened, the directing was solid. He had some strong, memorable visuals, and a soundtrack so good I was pissed I couldn’t buy it immediately. The performances were great, albeit from a fantastic cast. I’m not sure why I like Peter Sarsgaard so much, maybe it’s the credibility he lends to scenes. He’s also exudes a certain intensity.
My favorite line from Ebert’s review:
She is Sam (Natalie Portman), a local girl who is one of those creatures you sometimes find in the movies, a girl who is completely available, absolutely desirable and really likes you.