MOVIE REVIEW | 'GARDEN STATE'
First, Go Cold Turkey, Then Go to Cold JerseyK. C. Bailey/20th Century Fox Peter Sarsgaard, left, Natalie Portman and Zach Braff in "Garden State," written and directed by Mr. Braff. [photo caption]blockquote>
By STEPHEN HOLDEN, Published: July 28, 2004
Garden State," Zach Braff's small, smart, off-kilter comedy, has the cheek to present itself as "The Graduate 2004," although its affectionate subversion of a popular classic also stamps it as "The Anti-Graduate 2004." From its story of the awakening of an emotionally numbed young man — played by Mr. Braff, who wrote and directed the movie — to its editorial use of a contemporary pop soundtrack that throws in vintage Simon and Garfunkel ("The Only Living Boy in New York"), "Garden State" obsessively refers to that 1967 generational landmark.
The New Jersey suburban landscape to which Mr. Braff's 26-year-old alter ego, Andrew Largeman, returns from self-imposed exile in Los Angeles is a universe apart from the lotus land where he has lived for the last nine years in a chemical stupor. Because "The Graduate" established the stock vision of suburban alienation that has persisted through "American Beauty" and beyond, you expect "Garden State" to uphold the cliché. Instead, it allows Andrew to discover some nuggets of spiritual gold in the East Coast wasteland he dreaded revisiting.