Garden State (Blu-ray)

April 11, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) wants to be an actor, he has been in some projects, but his greatest role to date is that of a retarded quarterback. Then again, his emotions are so buried within himself, it is no wonder he hasn’t found success. After all, in order to be an actor, you need to be in tune with yourself, to know which buttons to push to engage certain emotions. His emotions are in check thanks to the prescriptions from his therapist father, Gideon (Ian Holm). His father blames him for causing his mother immense hardship, even though Andrew was just a child at the time, let alone the unusual circumstances. In the end, his father blamed him and since then, he has had serious issues with his son. This lead him to prescribe immense doses of numerous medications, all of which combine to keep Andrew in an almost catatonic state. As if he were sleepwalking through life, with no emotion and no direction, just a pill induced living coma. When his mother passes on, he decides to take a risk and return to home, a place he hasn’t been in nine years. He also shuts off his medicines, so he experiences life as it is, not as his father wishes him to. This leads him into some unique situations, meeting old friends, catching up with old times, taking on his father’s wrath, even romance follows him now. His potential love is Sam (Natalie Portman), a carefree young woman who is Andrew’s polar opposite. She is wild, free to take all the chances she can, which is what attracts him to her. Will this new life of his take hold of him, or will he eventually return to the numb, safe lifestyle he once knew?

Garden State stirred up a lot of hype when Miramax paid five million dollars to acquire it, so while not a major studio picture, there was considerable buzz. I tried to catch the flick in theaters, but was unable to do so, all the while hearing more and more praise for Garden State. Now that the movie has reached disc, I had a chance to see for myself, if the film lived up to the hype. I have to admit, it is a decent enough movie, but I don’t see why it was treated like one of the year’s best. The storyline is passable, with some potential that is well handled, but doesn’t stand out of the crowd. The idea of medicated life has been dealt with before, with better results, though not in such a comedic fashion. Even so, plot wise Garden State is average, so the drive has to come from the cast, which is a great one. Natalie Portman (Cold Mountain, Beautiful Girls) is easily the film’s brightest spot, with a natural, but effective performance. She is a very attractive woman of course, but she offsets her stunning looks with genuine depth of character. So she looks awesome, but she also shines from within, something not all of the current crop of leading ladies can do. Zach Braff has the lead and also directs, but one can’t help but think a better actor in his role would have enhanced the movie. His direction is basic, though solid, but his acting is at best passable, often quite bad. I don’t mean to label it as a bad movie, that isn’t the case, but I do feel it could have been much more.

Video: How does it look?

The movie looked pretty good on standard DVD, but with this HD offering, it’s been bumped up a notch or two.  The 2.40:1 AVC HD image retains the look of a low budget production, you wouldn’t know it from the way this looks. The natural color scheme is in full effect, with cool hues and nary a stray color streak to be seen, while flesh tones remain natural and consistent. No issues on the front of contrast either, as black levels are dead to rights and never falter, leaving behind stark shadows and a high level of detail at all times. Fox has been doing some great work of late and thankfully, Garden State marks another top notch treatment.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is a dialogue driven movie, so the included DTS HD Master Audio track is no monster, but  does cover all the bases. The surrounds are reserved for some ambient effects and the musical soundtrack, but that works out well, given the nature of the material. The main focus is on the vocals, which come through with flying colors, with accurate volume balance and a crisp overall sound throughout. So no, this won’t be a demo level audio track, but as far as the material goes, it is more than up to snuff.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Essentially all of the supplements found on the DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray.

  • Audio Commentary – Stars Zach Braff and Natalie Portman is available, as is a second session that features Braff with several members of the production staff. Portman isn’t too active in her track, as Braff talks most of the time, detailing his first time director experience. But Portman offers a few snippets, too bad she wasn’t able to be more of a presence.
  • Audio Commentary – The second track is more technical in scope, but is brisk, so don’t worry about being bored to tears here.
  • Deleted Scenes – With optional commentary by Braff.
  • The Making of Garden State – More than the obligatory featurette, we do get some pretty decent interviews and behind the scenes footage of the movie.
  • Outtakes/Bloopers – Some very rough footage of some laughs on the set.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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