Friday, October 29, 2004

Is it any wonder that I liked the soundtrack of Garden State more than the movie itself? Zach Braff's debut is definitely impressive but the movie is so bereft of an anchor that it wanders around a seemingly endless space accompanied by a litany of gorgeous pop-songs. Again, not a bad thing but where is the theme, that director's vision that connects together the dots into one spell-binding weave? Perhaps the theme is "offbeat". Word has it that Baff kept a little scrap-book which he filled with all the bizarre news that he read in newspapers. That he felt like putting all of those anecdotes right into the first movie he made, seems to me an indication that he was desperate and maybe, thought about making an making an offbeat indie movie as an end in itself.

Consider this. At home, for his mother's funeral service, a relative offers him a shirt made from the same material as the curtains in the bathroom. Cut to Braff watching himself in the mirror wearing a shirt thats matches the shower curtains to a T. This does get some cheap laughs but the seeming lack of connection between anecdotes is a little wearying. In another scene, on an odyssey-like ride with his friend (played by Peter Sarasgard) we glimpse a hotel where everyone (including a cop) is watching a couple have sex through a hole in the wall. Braff's main failure as a writer-director is that he inserts far too many non-sequiters in the hope of being "interesting" but he fails to concentrate on the most interesting sub-plot of all: the romance between his character and a pathological liar called Sam played with bewitching sweetness by Natalie Portman.

I never thought I'd say this about Portman after watching her sleep-walk through two of the star Wars prequels (Her "Oh, Annie ... "s in the Attack of the Clones brought down the house everytime) but she's like the light that shines through this movie. The first meeting between Andrew and Sam takes place in a neurologist's office and she invites him back to her house. That meeting (which concludes with them burying her pet hamster together) lasts around 15 minutes in the movie and it is alive - alive with a kind of dramatic weight that the rest of the film never attains. Garden State is an entertaining wisp of a movie but like its title, it is purposeless and uncohesive, a failure of the Braff the writer-director.

No comments: