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.