Zach Braff (who also wrote and directed) stars as Andrew Largeman, a young man so heavilymedicated since his childhood that he finds it completely impossible to experience any kind ofemotion. This is true even at his mother’s funeral, for which he returns from LA to New Jersey.There he reconnects with his old friends (chief among them being Peter Sarsgaard), all of whomare living odd, if aimless lives, and encounters Sam (Natalie Portman), whose emotions-on-the-sleeve appro…ch to life gradually leads to Andrew’s flowering.
The understated and sometimes black humour, the oddball characters and the indie-acoustic-rock soundtrack make this a film very much in the tradition of Wes Anderson’s works(Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) and, further back, in a direct line of descentfrom Harold and Maude. If Garden State adopts so many of the conventions ofthis kind of comedy, they being to look like clichés, it nonetheless is an endlessly entertainingand amusing picture. Braff’s role is a perfect picture of detached befuddlement, Sarsgaard turnsin another typically strong performance, and Portman reminds us that, The PhantomMenace and Attack of the Clones notwithstanding, she is no inconsiderable talentherself.
The film is understated, and so is the soundtrack, though the frequent musical interludes aregiven very flattering mixes. The surround is limited, but effective when present, and theplacement is generally good. The left-right separation is strong. There is a slight bit of distortionon some of the dialogue, notably when Andrew visits a doctor, but the emphasis here is on“slight.”
A very solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colours are strong and natural, andthe flesh tones are very good. the blacks are deep, and the contrasts are excellent (there is nomurkiness). Grain and edge enhancement aren’t problems, either. The image may be not be theabsolute sharpest I’ve seen, but it is more than adequate to the job.
There are two commentaries, one by Braff and Portman, and the other by Braff, DPLawrench Sher, editor Myron Kerstein and production designer Judy Becker. The emphasis inboth cases is very much on the behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts aspects of the film. The secondcommentary team is also present for an optional track accompanying the 16 (!) deleted scenes.The making-of featurette is a little less gratingly promotional than most of its ilk. There’s ablooper reel, and spots for the soundtrack and Danny Boyle’s forthcoming film Millions.The menu’s main screen is animated and scored.
A quirky delight, one of the better coming-of-age stories to come down the pike in sometime. Highly recommended.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Making-of Featurette
- Outtakes and Bloopers
- Bonus Trailer