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Garden State is a 2004 film written, directed by and starring Zach Braff, with Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and co-starring Sir Ian Holm. The film centers on Andrew Largeman (Braff), a 26-year-old actor/waiter who has been living in a catatonic emotional state. Since he was ten, he has been kept on at least one form of the drug lithium. After receiving a phone call from his dad, with whom he has not spoken in a long time, Andrew returns to his hometown in New Jersey upon finding out his paraplegic mother drowned in the bath. Visiting the place where he grew up, he soon meets Sam (Portman), the girl that brings him out of his shell. The title alludes both to the nickname for New Jersey and to lines from Andrew Marvell's poem "The Garden" ("Such was that happy garden-state,/ While man there walked without a mate").
It was filmed over 25 days in April and May 2003 and released on July 28, 2004. The main setting and primary shooting location was New Jersey. It was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. The film won Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film contains many allusions to the similar coming-of-age film The Graduate (1967), most notably the opening airplane scene that both pictures share.
Garden State was well received, and is considered a major success for Scrubs actor Zach Braff, as it was his feature film debut as a director. Lacking the publicity machine of most mainstream Hollywood films, it generated a devoted fan base from people who read and responded to Braff's blog on the film's official site. Fans drove hours to see the film and saw it repeatedly in theaters. The film also spawned a popular soundtrack for which Braff, who picked the music himself, won a Grammy award.
This film contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Andrew's father tries to destroy his mind with unnecessary psychiatric drugs as punishment for accidentally crippling his mother.
- Alone in a Crowd: Largeman is spaced out on the couch while the rest of the party is a Binge Montage going on all around him.
- Later he and Sam talk to each other at the other end of the pool while everyone else is swimming.
- Apologises a Lot: Sam tends to apologize for her quirks or anything really in fear of freaking Andrew out. He even mocks her for this at one point.
- Big Damn Kiss
- Black Comedy: Definitely. Some of the darkest, squickiest clips were cut from the theatrical release, but they're available on the DVD.
- Boy Meets Girl
- Clifftop Caterwauling: One of the most well known scenes of the film has Andrew, Sam and Mark climbing on an abandoned crane and scream into a chasm.
- Double Meaning Title: It can refer to a popular nickname for New Jersey, or to the emotionless, static state of Large's life since he went on his medication.
- Dream Sequence: Opens with one.
- DVD Commentary
- Dysfunctional Family
- Emotionless Guy: Andrew Largeman. He gradually opens up during the course of the film because he's finally off his psychiatric medications and because he meets Sam.
- Fan Service: The pool scene with multiple girls (including Sam) swimming around in their underwear.
- Follow the Leader: It spawned a lot of terrible imitators, so now when you describe it, it sounds awful. One of the reasons for its severe case of Seinfeld Is Unfunny.
- The Fun in Funeral: A mild example.
- Gilligan Cut: In the rain.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Sheldon Cooper as the fast-food knight who tells Andrew about his forehead after the party. It's now widely considered Jim Parsons' breakthrough role.
- Inventor of the Mundane: One of Zach Braff's friends invented "silent velcro" and became a multi-millionaire. He now spends his time driving golf-carts around his mansion.
- It Always Rains At Funerals: It was actually raining the day of the shoot, but they had trouble getting the rain to show up on the film.
- Joisey: The title is a nickname.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Sam. Certainly not the Ur Example, but one of the most famous examples.
- Meet Cute: Sam and Andrew at the doctor's office. A dog is humping his leg and Andrew asks what he should do. Sam tells him to kick the dog in the balls.
- Nice Guy: Andrew Largeman.
- Redemption in the Rain
- Romantic Comedy
- Shallow Love Interest: Sam.
- YMMV, as Sam is probably a much more-developed character than Andrew (who is basically a collage of every indie movie lead character cliche in the 1990's and 2000's).
- Shout-Out: To The Graduate, but to plenty of other things as well.
- Spin the Bottle
- Spiritual Successor: If Garden State went one state over, it would be called Adventureland.
- Tomboyish Name: Sam.
- Wallpaper Camouflage: Andrew's new shirt which has the same pattern as the bathroom wallpaper.