Saturday, 25 September 2010

I know it hurts. That's life. If nothing else, It's life. It's real, and sometimes it fuckin' hurts, but it's sort of all we have.

No 393 - Garden State
Director - Zach Braff

This is what the film challenge is about, it is about discovery. Or, in the case of this particular film, rediscovery.
I think I Garden State has suffered because it came out, and I saw it, around the time I first discovered Wes Anderson and I thusly spent the whole time comparing it to The Royal Tenenbaums - which is probably my favourite film in the world. I admit that this is an unfair thing to do, however Braff hardly makes matters easy for himself. The films share a lot of common ground:
  • The Comi-tragic tone which leans a lot more towards tragic.
  • The sense of existential ennui
  • Father Issues
  • Visual Quirks
But, whilst I'm searching the film for these similarities, I miss out on what made this film good, and there are some really great moments in it. Things that need to be lauded and celebrated. Let us begin which some of the visual choices that Zach Braff has chosen. There are some wonderful moments such as motion sensors triggering a line of taps that go off as Zach Braff's Largeman walks past them. Or the doctor who has so many qualifications that the final one is attached to the ceiling, having run out of wall space. These little genuinely inspired moments are placed between some very deft camera moves (watch as they scream.... just amazing) and transitions which prove that Braff has a lot of talent as a director - he has some impressive ideas.

He also has great taste in music. And whilst I don't think the Shins will change your life (although New Slang is a lovely song), I will always appreciate any situation which plays me the Iron and Wine cover of Such Great Heights. It is a beautiful song made even more beautifuller - and that is coming from someone with an unhealthy love of plinky plonky synth (still prefer the original though).

And when you factor in some of the casting decisions (you have to love Ian Holm - he narrated one of the best things ever), you'd think you'd have a classic film which I'd adore for all eternity.

But the thing is, whilst the film is much better than I had given it credit for in the past, it still leaves me a bit cold. This is because, I do sometimes think that it tries to hard. Especially with our two main characters.
Sam, can be quite annoying at times. There are moments (such as her family life) which are warm and adorable, but there are moments (such as her 'original dance') which feel cringe-worthily forced and unnatural. Like they are trying to pull out every last possible drop of kooky, and occasionally they are just left with someone being a bit weird. Or worse.... a bit wacky. Luckily, Natalie Portman is insanely cute and charming. So she manages to pull it off and make Same a likable character.

Whereas Largemean suffers from the opposite - I just find him (for most of the film) whiny and narcissistic. A bit like JD in scrubs who I've never really liked because he is a self centred git. Now, I'm aware that in Garden state he is supposed to be whiny and narcissistic - that it is his journey, but these things do make me naturally a bit 'meh' about Zach Braff (The Last Kiss is the only film I've ever walked out of at the cinema) - as he seems to play a lot of characters who whine about their wonderful lives.

The fact that this film manages to get through my preconceptions and prejudiced apathy shows just how good it must be. And although elements do feel forced, and although none of the characters who appear frequently will match the warmth and joy seen in the short appearance of Albert's boat based family, it is still quite a touching drama that manages to address that modern phenomenon of the quarter life crisis, and give us jokes about dogs masturbating.

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