Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Of Age

I've had a few people recommend Garden State in the past year or two, often in reference to my old love of John Hughes coming-of-age films or connecting my current taste in music to the fantastic soundtrack, so I finally checked it out last night.

To me it had the feel of an earlier Douglas Coupland novel like Shampoo Planet, where it looks like the writer has selected a hundred favourite references from their personal notebooks of interesting observations, then tried to connect them up in a way that sorta makes sense. The result is loose and meandering, with no clear sense of direction. It's more like real life (which tends to include things that aren't part of an obvious narrative), but it's so condensed that it feels a bit surreal compressing all these vignettes into a movie covering four days. Many of the lines and scenes apparently have no point, and several are so bad that they're unintentionally hilarious. Probably more like New Waterford Girl than Good Will Hunting in terms of focus, with bits of Dazed and Confused and maybe even Gross Pointe Blank thrown in for good measure.

Natalie Portman was flat-out irritating for the first while, but I warmed up to her. I liked the guy who wrote, directed and starred -- he has a certain vulnerability that makes him compelling to watch, and it's refreshing to see a star who doesn't look like a Ken doll. The background characters and suburban settings are simultaneously mundane and bizarre, yet they mostly ring true. I guess if I had to sum it up, I'd say that the film was all over the board and occasionally exceptionally dumb, but with enough warmth, fun and humour to make it worth the $3 and two hours I spent on it.

6 comments:

Shane and Nicole said...

Jer,
I felt much like you did about the movie ... decent enough but glad I rented it and didn't spend 12$ at the theatre to see it.

However I really liked Zack Braff's (the main character in Garden State) newest movie (still in theatres so you'll have to wait if you want to rent it) "The Last Kiss". I hadn't heard much about it before I saw it (just the way I like it) and thought it was going to be a fluffy chick flick. Boy was I wrong.

Some would say it's a bit of a continuation of Garden State in that it's about the "next phase of life" ... no longer the 20's, but the 30's. Shane and I both really enjoyed it, despite the less than spectacular reviews. For us it really rang true to what couplehood is about ... not all lollipops and sunshine, but some really good times with some really tough times as well. Again ... a killer soundtrack that I'd check out if I were you. Did you know Zack Braff puts together the soundtracks ... he won an Oscar for Garden State and from what I can tell should probably get one for this one as well.
Nicole

Ang said...

Thanks Jer, I've never seen it. It's always interesting to hear a film review from someone who doesn't watch a great deal of movies. I've become really picky about what gets popped in the x-box. (Unless Patrick Swayze's in it-heehee)

Jeremy said...

Ang, are you saying that my rank-amateur, pop-culture retardation makes for better movie reviews?
: )

I wondered about that when I realized that the comparable films I listed were all at least 10 years old, from an era when I actually watched movies. I should have noted that those four are probably among my favourites as well.

Jeremy said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Nicole. I was actually surprised that Garden State was critically acclaimed, with Sundance buzz and all that -- I really liked it, but it seemed so amateurish at times. Sounds like both soundtracks would be worth picking up.

Garth said...

Soundtrack was good but the movie kind of bored me...I'm with you - worth the $3 rental but that's about it.

Heather said...

Ryan and I just went to see "The Departed" last night. In my opinion, a definate recommend - either as in-theatre viewing or rental. We both really liked it. It was a bit high on the profanity scale for me - but I have very low tolerance for that anyway. Still liked it a lot - "two thumbs way up".