Garden State of mind

Jenn and I saw Garden State last night and loved it so much that we immediately went to Borders and bought the soundtrack album. I was predisposed to loving this film, given the facts that I love Zach Braff on Scrubs and the majority of my friends and coworkers really enjoyed it. Heck, I even blogged before about wanting to see it. How could I go away unhappy?

Well, perhaps my enthusiasm for the film isn’t shared by everyone. I know for a fact that Matthew Yglesias wasn’t impressed. He thought that the music existed somehow apart from the film itself and that the exposition outweighed the visual storytelling. I can only assume we saw two different films. Braff has a better eye for film-making than his New Jersey compatriot Kevin Smith and, unlike Smith, doesn’t step all over good ideas/scenes with mountains of dialogue.

Yes, if you want to pick nits, Garden State does have it’s characters talk about the changes that are occurring within them. Most of the folks I know dissect what they do, what they experience, how they change AFTER if happens to them. And yes, most of them use phrases describing family as a group of people who all miss the same thing. I guess we wouldn’t make an entertaining movie.

If Garden State is well-filmed banality, I’ll happily call myself banal. Braff shows tons of action, albeit non-sequiters, quiet reflection and nervous interactions. He isn’t just talking about change, he’s talking AND showing. THAT is/was a good film; one I would reccommend whole-heartedly over some of the highly-touted avant garde crap that I’m told is good. I’m talking to you, Wes Anderson. The Royal Tenenbaums needed truckloads of banality, and some semblance of dialogue that wasn’t voiceover, to make it watchable. I mean, who could relate to that film?

Where Kevin Smith tries to elevate pedestrian interactions into epiphanies and Wes Anderson attempts to get regular folks to relate to complete nutjobs, Zach Braff has crafted real people. Flawed people with odd idiosyncrasies, to be sure, but real people nonetheless. I think the great achievement of Garden State is that it starts as one film, with one particular voice, and ends in a completely different way. The movie perfectly portrays Largeman’s journey to self discovery; the “infinite abyss”.

All in all, I’m not angry with Matthew, but happy with Zach. He has shown himself to be a phenomenal talent both behind and in front of the camera. I’m hoping that Garden State is not his finest work. I’m sure Matthew agrees with me on that point.

Leave a Reply