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Garden State DVD Review

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“Garden State” is on the IMDB’s top all time list at #186. Not that it means very much to most people, it’s still pretty impressive for a small independent movie like this. It could actually be said that it deserves to be higher (much higher) as this is a fantastic film that just seems to cop out at the end.

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) hasn’t been home in years. Finally drawn back due to his mother’s death, he rekindles a few friendships and starts a new one. This one, with a young epileptic named Sam (Natalie Portman), will change him forever.

It’s very hard to describe just what draws you into “Garden State.” It’s a simple movie that basically follows a few days in the lives of two people. While things do start off a little rough, once the two leads meet, you won’t move. You instantly become focused on every word they say and laugh at comedy that you really have to be paying attention to get some times.

Not a single conversation in this film is wasted. Everything has a purpose and it’s important to listen to everything in order to really grasp what’s going on. The characters build off each other, providing their back-stories via totally realistic and natural conversation. It makes the movie.

If you don’t find yourself relating to any of the characters, then surely the way everything is portrayed will. Portman is in top form here, definitely one of the best young actresses we have right now. Braff does double duty as both a director and actor, doing a fantastic job as both. Everything is meticulously composed for solid impact when needed. Even if you don’t understand cinematography, it’s not hard to figure out just how great some of these scenes look.

Sadly, the film climaxes with the predictable Hollywood ending. When everything else just seems so normal, the ending just seems tacked on to keep everyone in the audience happy. There’s little doubt there’s an alternate ending somewhere. Still, this is a must see film that deserves every award and piece of critical praise it can garner. Just see it to really understand. (***** out of *****)

Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen to preserve each and every shot the way it should be, this DVD provides decent video, just nothing outstanding. Facial detail is high and clear, but the backgrounds suffer from way too much noise. The critical first meeting between Andy and Sam is almost ruined by walls that seem to be moving. Edge enhancement is noticeable although minimal. Compression is overall under control, though it has trouble in darker scenes. (***)

A lot of this movie is spoken very low, almost in mumbles at times. Not surprisingly then, dialogue can be difficult to hear. Turning it up too loud results in the excellent, hand picked soundtrack to strain the speakers. There are a few nice moments of separation to be had, even a little bit of work for the rears. Again, it’s nothing special. (***)

Extras here are few, but excellent in quality. Two commentaries, one with Braff and Portman, the other with Braff and his crew, provide plenty of insight into what went into this film. Yet, by far the best feature is the “Making Of Garden State,” an incredibly in-depth half-hour look at how this movie came together. Just about everyone involved gets to speak, even the guy providing the food. It’s pretty amazing to see how much trouble they had with that motorcycle.

Sixteen deleted scenes are included, most of which continue to flesh out the characters. One definite keeper was “First Talk” which makes a joke later in the film work a little better. Each of these also includes a Braff commentary as to why it was cut. A short blooper reel is definitely worth watching, if only for the, uh, “dog” scene. The final extras include a soundtrack promo and various trailers for Searchlight Pictures. (****)

Braff worked on this script since he was in college and finally fleshed it out. Made for an estimated $2.5 million, it hauled in $26 million by the time the theatrical run was over. Hopefully it can draw an even bigger audience by word of mouth.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.