"Garden State" (Zack Braff, 2004) A delightful little film, rude with detail, about a young aspiring actor who takes the occassion of a trip back home to attend his mother's funeral to stop taking anti-depressants. Zack Braff ("Scrubs") writes, acts and stars in "Garden State," and he's got to be pretty good, but he pulls off a perfect hat-trick without slighting any of those functions. Plus, he has a pretty good eye for camera-work, too, as his medicated section plays austere and sterile, but gradually becomes freer with subject matter and composition right to the last shot. Good cast, too. Natalie Portman is all charming neurotic tic as a Jersey girl, and Peter Sarsgaard turns in another seemingly effortless performance as the best of Braff's stoner-friends. Ian Holm is the tightest-wound of control-freak dad-shrinks, and there's a wonderful cameo by Jean Smart. The film loses its way briefly in the third act on a prolonged scavenger hunt, but wraps up nicely. Pretty damned good for somebody's first film!****
**** The topic of "Garden State" came up at a party recently and the reactions to it were extreme--love it or hate it. But the most vehemence--and a large reason to hate the movie was Natalie Portman. I thought she was great, more than redeeming herself for the "Star Wars" prequels, but a couple of women in the room not only thought she was horrible, but ruined the movie. ??? Really? RUINED the entire movie? In my opinion, they couldn't be more wrong. But, why would they think that? I think it's because she wasn't wearing the right kind of make-up. No, not Maybelline. Something like the make-up Charlize Theron wore to win the Oscar in "Monster," (besides the truly amazing performance, that is), or the false nose Nicole Kidman wore in "The Hours." And let's be fair here, the transformation of Daniel Day Lewis for his award-winning performance in "My Left Foot," or the weight and schlumpf George Clooney burdened himself with for "Syriana." So, word of advice, Nat', if you're ever gonna be taken seriously, think something disfiguring.