GARDEN STATE was that most welcome of surprises, an accomplished film whose quirkiness delivered a thoughtful look at modern alienation without glorifying it. Its writer/director/star, Zach Braff, proved to be as thoughtful as his film. Our conversation on July 1, 2004, covered the importance of visual images in conveying a story, the lessons of working with Woody Allen (even if most of his performance in MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY was left on the cutting room floor), and the hold his television series, “Scrubs”, has on the health care community.
Only rarely does a film as profound, as rich, and as deeply affecting as GARDEN STATE come along. Even more rarely is it the handiwork of a first-time filmmaker. That would be Braff, known for his role as the philosophically harried intern on the subversively wicked comedy, Scrubs. Here, Braff is Andrew Largeman, a struggling Hollywood actor with one good credit, a television movie playing a mentally challenged football player, under his belt, and a demeaning job waiting tables to pay the rent until the next one comes along. Life is one long, prescription-drug induced,waking dream until a phone call from his father summons him home to his mothers funeral. From the aridity of La La Land, Largeman journeys to the stifled emotions of the refrigeration unit that is the home in New Jersey and father (Ian Holm) that he hasnt visited in a decade, and the warmly off-hand reception of old pals. Impulsively leaving the drugs behind, his trip east becomes a Pilgrim’s Progress from deadened emotions to a tentative, tenuous, embrace of an open heart.
The film co-stars Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portman, who looks fetching in her helmet.