National TreasureStarring Zach Bramf, Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portman. Written and directed by Zach Bramf.
Running Time: 109 mins
If you saw GARDEN STATE at a screening of student films, you would be impressed. But you didn't. You saw it in a movie theater and your ticket cost $12. So even if you are impressed by the sweet love story and first-time director Zach Bramf's witty use of the camera, you still scratch your head and say, "Twelve bucks? For that?'
In a self-conscious reworking of The Graduate, Andrew Largeman (Bramf) has returned to his boyhood home in New Jersey to attend his mother's funeral. Largeman has left his vast collection of psycho-pharmaceuticals in his Los Angeles medicine chest, so his homecoming is also intended to be a coming-out party for his emotions. Largeman wanders from set-piece party scenes to my-old-friends-are-charming-and-odd scenes and then back again, all the while avoiding his father and his psychological trauma but nevertheless meeting and falling in love with a girl named Sam (Portman).
Garden State could be both charming and quirky; however, because it is trying so very, very hard to be both charming and quirky, it doesn't really work. Bramf may have a future as a director. Visually his film is compelling; the actors' performances (except for the auteur himself who is a little too disaffected throughout) are good. But he should leave the writing aside. Often confusing cleverness and quirkiness for intelligence, Bramf's narrative builds through a series of less-than-startling reveals that seem incidental to the emotional track of the story. There is true wit in this material, but without any depth, it ends up being inconsequential.
Bramf is the star of a SCRUBS, a successful American situation comedy. Certainly he would have leveraged his Hollywood status and connections to attract talented actors, cinematographers and editors to his project. But were he an actually film student, he might have had to write a few extra drafts of his script. My $12 might have then been better spent.
Harden Grace is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.