Garden State

The MSG and I have determined that my system of rating films is by Kleenex. Regardless of the actual sadness level of a film, I will sniffle quietly if it’s pretty good, tear up while sniffling if it’s good, let some tears actually fall if it’s very good, and if it’s great …

… if it’s great

… then I will burst into not-so-quiet, snot-enhanced sobs.

Obviously, this is my lead-in to a review of “Garden State”, Zach Braff’s screen-writing and -directing debut, which was every bit the Mom Died And I Have To Go Back Home And Confront My Old Life film I had hoped it would be. Granted, that sort of film has been done no less than twenty gazillion times, but if it’s done right, it’s still interesting and wondrous and just like a snowflake, except with Natalie Portman.

Which brings me to the Portman Factor. Why is she in movies? I understand that some people are mightily attracted to Ms. Portman, but come on. She hasn’t acted since “The Professional” and this role was no different. Her character is aggressively quirky, a pattern which has made the world all the wearier of us subtly quirky girls. So stop it already. Ruining my schtick.

In happier news, “Garden State” cemented Peter Sarsgaard’s place on my Hollywood thumpity-thump list, which only really consists of Tim Roth, Thora Birch, Jake Gyllenhaal, Parker Posey, and now Peter Sarsgaard. He is so subtly, painfully talented that I would like to poke him with a toothpick and then hug him. That is really talented on my meter. Plus, he is dating Maggie Gyllenhaal (at this writing, which may be inaccurate by the time you read it), which proves my theory that people with double vowels in their last name are innately attracted to one another, but still does not explain why Maggie’s brother Jake has not looked me up yet. I mean, it’s spelled Bernaard, after all. I mean, it could be. Shut up. It could.

The strength of “Garden State” is not the joy one gets in one’s guts while watching Zach Braff’s unique blend of suave awkwardness at being himself, and it’s not the delicious little details by which Braff decided to tell this particular Mom Died, etc. story. It’s that he tells a small story with small, beaded string that sparkles in the light, enough to let you realize it’s a spiderweb wrought with dew all on your own, much later. Tomorrow, even. Maybe I don’t even know it yet.

But I do.

Really, the best part of “Garden State” was walking home in the late-afternoon sunshine with the MSG’s arm around me as I cried, because it’s very much a movie about embracing connection, refusing disconnection, hugging the hell out of life even when it upsets you. That’s all we get and so I dug this film. I’m also fond of wordplay, and the title is meaningful aside from its obvious state motto relevance.

So that’s my review. Go see it; tell me what you think. I’m sure some folks will be disappointed because it is a small story, and we’re all so used to big ones. Lately, I seem to like them smaller and smaller. (No crude comments, please.)

“R.I.P. Legolas the iPod” update: I’m so, so close to earning a free 20 Gb iPod to replace poor deceased Legolas, so share the love if you can! Remember, Gmail invitations and a free one-month trial to Netflix are up for barter. Thanks so much to the generous souls who have helped out already.

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