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:
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!