Yesterday’s Thoughts

January 29, 2005

Garden State

Queenie and I watched Garden State last night. Very interesting movie.

I have had a pretty hard time wrapping my head around Zack Braff on Scrubs. The visual gimmicks are intrusive, and I don’t think that they add much to the show. Queenie hates the senior doctor for more or less the same reasons. As a result, we fled from the show for a long time. Obviously the show didn’t need us as viewers.

Over time, the show has grown on me. I think that the stories are interesting and the writing and acting are actually pretty subtle, once you get past the gimmicks.

Anyway, that is a long build up to saying that I found Garden State to be a really good movie. The situation was interesting, the characters were compelling and the sound track was amazing.

The sound track perfectly captured the mood of the film, which was important; a significant portion of the movie was about mood. There was a literal telling of the story of 26-year-old Andrew as he tries to come to terms with his life: his mother’s recent (probable) suicide, his role in the accident that caused her paraplegia 15 years before, and his psychiatrist father keeping him medicated since that time. Beyond the literal story, the music pointed to Andrew’s internal awakening.

This pointer was made explicit early on. Andrew is in the doctor’s office when he first meets, Sam (Natalie Portman). They strike up a conversation. The dialog goes something like this:

A: “What are you listening to?”
S: “The Shins. Do you know them?”
A: Shakes head, no.
S: “You have got to listen. They will change your life.”

Andrew listens on Sam’s headphones (to Caring is Creepy) while looking at Sam. He really listens it seems like and so did I. At the same time he was (and I was) really looking at Sam. In this role, Natalie Portman is compelling. She has just the right mixture of beauty and quirkiness, vulnerability and toughness, and wonder and togetherness.

That said, the only slightly off moment of the whole movie for me, was one instant while Andrew is listening to the Shins and gazing at Sam. For a brief flicker of time, you see Natalie Portman visibly acting. It is only the most transient expression, but at such a pivotal point of the movie that everything is heightened.

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