Garden State (2004)



Critic Consensus: Delivering a quirky spin on familiar twentysomething tropes -- with a cannily-placed soundtrack -- Garden State has enough charm to mark a winning debut for first-time director Zach Braff.

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Andrew Largeman shuffled through life in a lithium-induced coma until his mother's death inspired a vacation from the pills to see what might happen. A moderately successful TV actor living in Los Angeles, "Large" hasn't been home to the "Garden State" in nine years. But even with 3,000 miles between them, he's been unable to escape his domineering father Gideon and the silencing effect he's had on his son from afar. Stunned to find himself in his hometown after such a long absence, Large finds old acquaintances around every corner living quite unique lives as gravediggers, fast food knights and the panderers of pyramid schemes. Meanwhile, at home, he does his best to avoid a long-simmering but inevitable confrontation with his father. By a twist of fate, Large meets Sam, a girl who is everything he isn't. A blast of color, hope and quirks, Sam becomes a sidekick who refuses to ride in his sidecar. Her warmth and fearlessness give Large the courage to open his heart to the joy and pain of the infinite abyss that is life.
R (for language, drug use and a scene of sexuality)
Comedy , Drama , Romance
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Written By:
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Zach Braff
as Andrew `Large' Largeman
Ian Holm
as Dr. Gideon Largeman
Ron Leibman
as Dr. Cohen
Jean Smart
as Carol
Method Man
as Diego
Denis O'Hare
as Albert
Alex Burns
as Dave
Ann Dowd
as Olivia
Jackie Hoffman
as Aunt Syliva Largeman
Jayne Houdyshell
as Mrs. Lubin
Ato Essandoh
as Titembay
Geoffrey Arend
as Karl Benson
Soara-Joy Ross
as Handi-World Cashier
George C Wolfe
as Restaurant Manager
Austin Lusy
as Waiter
Gary Gilbert
as Young Hollywood Guy
Jill Flint
as Obnoxious Girl
Chris Carley
as Gleason Party Drunk
Yvette Mercedes
as Neurology Receptionist
Ryan B. Moschetti
as Teen in Hallway
Joe Bacino
as Man Having Sex
Seth Michael May
as Peeping Tom
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Critic Reviews for Garden State

All Critics (188) | Top Critics (40)

Feels too piecemeal and ultimately inconsequential to grab the public where it counts.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

This is a movie where 'sensitivity' and 'sincerity' are signposted by songs by Paul Simon and Nick Drake, which I guess says it all.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Mr. Braff, Ms. Portman, Mr. Sarsgaard and Mr. Holm never strike a false note as a remarkably coherent acting ensemble, and it is good to see Ron Leibman again in the small role of Doctor Cohen.

Full Review… | September 10, 2004
New York Observer
Top Critic

Cleverly written, sensitively directed and very well-acted.

August 20, 2004
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

His movie is sweet-natured and skillful, but its biggest problem is perhaps one Braff wasn't prepared to deal with: his own performance -- or, more accurately, the decision to place a deliberately flat performance at the film's heart.

Full Review… | August 13, 2004
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Garden State may not define an entire generation, but it has a sharp eye for the passive aimlessness that can take hold when young adults realize there's no handbook on how to find purpose and meaning in life.

August 13, 2004
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Garden State

Touching and charming, Garden States features great performances (especially from Natalie Portman) and an interesting premise. It also contains some memorable scenes that are expertly crafted and at times smartly hilarious.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer


A small-time actor (Zach Braff), doped up on heroic doses of antidepressants, returns home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral and finds love with a quirky lady (Natalie Portman) while working through his family issues. The first half hour is an excellent, deadpan comedy of alienation that feels like a 21st century riff on THE GRADUATE; momentum slowly fades away as the script yields originality to the conventions of the romantic comedy genre.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

The directorial debut of sitcom actor Zach Braff, many were impressed and surprised by the serious depth and eccentric writing in the script. Also starring in the titular role of Andrew Largeman, Braff is mirroring his own life story and the reaches of his own depression at the time he wrote the script. Now an indie darling and cult classic, the film certainly resonates because of its following of a family's turmoil, but more importantly the role of the deadened senses of the young, and how a person in a quagmire really needs to grab at life for the good. The film centers on child actor turned waiter Andrew, who comes back to his home state of New Jersey for the funeral of his father. He runs into his friends from high school, meets a doctor's receptionist who is a pathological liar and a loveable girl next door, and tries to understand the procession of his life without mood altering drugs or the guilt over his mother's injury. Most of the film is about a love story between down and out Andrew and epileptic Sam, who is making her way through life while keeping her disability a secret and trying to connect to someone besides her loving and yet embarrassing mother. Full of really great and odd performances, it contains many great actors who usually take on smaller and yet substantial roles such as Peter Sarsgaard as a grave digging kleptomaniac, Ian Holm as Andrew's psychiatrist father, who had put his son into a lithium infused haze, and strangely enough a cameo from rapper Method Man as a bellhop. Sincerely, Braff has created a very youth centered and dramatized film, including a Grammy winning soundtrack put together by Braff himself, and an ending that is understandably clichéd and yet satisfying.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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