All I ever knew about Zach Braff is that he’s a funny guy and very good in his role as the wacky, awkward, almost occasionally effeminate JD on TV’s Scrubs. You know, I kinda hate the way I too am kinda wacky and awkward, but I never get to get it on with Sarah Chalke, Christa Miller, Amy Smart, or Tara Reid…yet JD does…but now I know I’m just being petty.
Anyway, so after being on Scrubs a few years doing his thing, I had no idea that Zach Braff was also a talented writer…AND…a talented director too!
That’s just way too much talent in one seemingly average guy!

But yeah, Zach Braff is the writer, director, and main character in Garden State, a sweet romantic comedy / drama, that doesn’t follow the usual romantic comedy spiel.
Braff plays a struggling actor in L.A. who heads back to the Garden State of New Jersey when his mother passes away. There he must try to heal his fragile relationship with his father (the great Ian Holm), hook up with old friends (the oddly sinister Peter Sarsgaard), and make a very special new friend (the absolutely luminescent Natalie Portman).

I’ve been kinda down on Ms Portman of late, mostly due to all that Star Wars shit, but here she shows what she’s made of. She shows why since the tender age of twelve she’s been impressing the Hell outta critics, and why she has a huge army of fans who drool over her and her wise beyond her years smile. She basically steals every scene she’s in, which is saying a lot, because every scene she’s in includes Braff, who surprised the Hell out of me with his earnest, heartfelt performance. There have been plenty of tender moments on Scrubs, but still, I just never knew he had it in him to be so powerful. Very impressive, and the fact that he wrote and directed this thing kills me.
I hope these two great leads get all kinds of kudos and recognition for this flick.
Peter Sarsgaard is relatively unknown to me, but I know he’s been in critically lauded little films before, like Shattered Glass and Boys Don’t Cry. Here I kinda hated his character, but sort of respected him as well, and the performance was very good. Ian Holm is hardly in the film, but does a nice job. There’s just something classy about the guy.

Garden State isn’t perfect, and for a while I was starting to worry about a comparison I read in the ads…”this year’s Lost In Translation”. Phew. Dodged a bullet. Personally, I think LIT was an exceedingly overrated, boring film. And for a little while there, I worried this one was too. But then things started to settle, and though I felt it moved a little slowly at times, and had a few unsuccessful attempts at humor, for the most part I feel this is a major accomplishment for the young triple threat.
I definitely look forward to seeing more of his work, on both the big and small screens…

B +