like a gull takes to the wind


After far too much anticipation & replaying of its fantastic teaser trailer, I finally saw Zach Braff's Garden State last nite. I definitely enjoyed it, but I also went in with expectations that were just too high. Braff has a solid filmmaker's eye for visuals, and I think he's very talented, but his film felt like exactly what it is - a first feature. It comes off a little bit clunky, with music cues that are good but feel forced, an under-used Ian Holm and a under-developed character (IMO) for Peter Sarsgaard, and a general sense that everything is a bit more "meaningful" than it really is. Natalie Portman finally gives another good performance after acting against green screens for several years, and once again she plays a muse for some guy (also see: Léon and Beautiful Girls). She is delightful, and she & Braff play off of each other quite nicely. Still, I felt there was something missing from their on-screen relationship that made the film' ending seem a bit light or unearned for me. Of course, I'm being really overly critical here (the film school grad in me that I can't get rid of), and I may even see the movie again to get a second impression, which I won't mind so much since I actually did like it the first time around. Both of today's songs come from the Garden State soundtrack, due out in early August:

MP3 Simon & Garfunkel - "The Only Living Boy in New York"
Originally from Bridge Over Troubled Water, Braff uses this appropriately titled song at the climax of the film's second act, which features Braff, Portman & Sarsgaard screaming their lungs out on the precipice of vast quarry (which has since been immortalized on the film's poster). It is at this moment that something changes dramatically in Braff's character, as if he's realizing something for the first time. The scene is a little heavy-handed, but it's also quite nice (there I go, using that word again).

MOV The Shins - "New Slang" video (4.2mb)
One of Garden State's finer moments comes in the first scene between Braff & Portman. They meet awkwardly & by chance in a doctor's office, and she eventually offers him her headphones to listen to The Shins, saying that they will "change your life." This beautiful song, from the Oh, Inverted World LP, plays as he (and we the audience) watches her watching him listen to it. It's a lovely, intimate, simple moment & Natalie may have never looked so radiant.

On a barely-related note, I listened to Faded Seaside Glamour by Delays on my subway ride back to Park Slope last nite after the movie, which fit well with the mood of the film & was, yet again, quite nice. Be sure the keep checking in on Zach's blog to see what's happening with him & his movie.

I'm off to cruise around Manhattan with RANA & Sam Champion. I'd like to give a shout out to Jessica Jolly, who's hosting a party tonite to coincide with the final nite of the DNC. Please chip in comments w/your thoughts & impressions, since I won't be able to see the speech for myself. Let's hope that Kerry knocks it out of the park!

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Anonymous Anonymous @ 7/29/2004 11:14:00 PM:

my friends and i will be seeing this next friday when it opens in toronto - i'm psyched! :) good to hear you enjoyed it.

-mishie
(boltofblue.net/michelle)    


Blogger mr gilbert @ 7/30/2004 12:17:00 AM:

bless you, c-span! i got back to brooklyn just in time to watch them replay Kerry's speech. that's solid gold timing, folks...    


Blogger JZ @ 7/30/2004 03:53:00 PM:

I agree wholeheartedly with you re: GARDEN STATE... I liked it, really liked the majority of it, but felt like the last 20 minutes sold it out completely..

Since your an over-analyzing film school grad and so am I, here's my problems:

His mom's necklace: So, did his friend steal the necklace from his mom's corpse and then sell it, then feel bad about it, then get it back? Or what? I don't buy that good friend (or best) would steal your mom's necklace. Maybe I'm naive...

The whole rush to get home: Why's he rushing? Isn't the point of the LA sequence that he has nothing there and isn't happy there? I mean, okay he has to get back, but there's no rush....

His dad: I didn't really get why he was so mad... Because his dad had been prescribing him lithium since he was 9? Man, if there's anything I know about people on meds, it's that at a teenage age, they get off them to see how things really are... I have a hard time believing that he'd wait until he was 26 to get off them.. Maybe coming out to LA would make you get back them...

There were definitely scenes missing with Ian Holm. (Isn't there a scene in the trailer where they both hug next to the bathtub?) At the end, it's just Zach Braff lecturing him about random shit like "I need to live my life" and blah blah blah... Okay, what?

I just felt like the summing it all up and happy romantic ending stuff came out of nowhere... Suddenly, after being non-judgemental and quiet, he's telling everyone how it is. I liked it better when he was just observing...

Oh yeah, and didn't this seem like a (more) modern cousin to BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. Both movies about an (artsy) guy coming home, meeting his friends who are stuck in the small town with crap jobs, and falling for a beautiful, intriguing but kind of off the wall girl -- both played by Natalie Portman.

But at least Timothy Hutton didn't go around lecturing people...

phew.. that was long...    


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