Garden State

I trudged two blocks through the snow and saw Garden State
tonight. I’m still mulling it over. My reaction to it is complex. I was
very irritated by it. I resisted it. Though it still “worked”, i.e. it
pushed my buttons. But I am very irritated that it did that. If I had
to come up with one word right NOW to describe the film, it would be
“childish.” That’s not quite the right word, but it’ll do for now. I
was most irritated by Natalie Portman’s character, some perfect-perfect
imaginary male-fantasy creature. Every word she said was perfect, every
action choreographed to say “fall in love with me!” You could say, “an
epileptic compulsive liar who lives with her mother and wears a helmet
to work is the “perfect” female?” And I will say YES, because that is
just one of her perfectly quirky traits–we don’t have to actually see
her go through a seizure or deal with the effects of medication, she’s
just delighfully epileptic. And her lies are all cute and innocent and
she owns up to them instantly. Her “flaws” are really attributes; it’s
just some added flavoring in the recipe for “perfect quirky-girl for
quirky twentysomething modern males.” She’s the Gidget of the ’00s. She
doesn’t have any real  baggage, only the guy gets to have that. Her purpose is to pull him out of his slump. Compare quirky Sam to quirky Clementine in Eternal Sunshine. Both exist for the same reason–to draw the guy out–but in Eternal Sunshine we see how Clementine’s personality is problematic as well, not just cutely quirky. Her quirks are her problems, and they don’t just exist to make some guy smile and dovetail perfectly with his personality. And, she even tells Joel not to expect her to save him. Garden State just isn’t as meaty. Childish.

It may be obvious but in a Garden State world, I’d be Zach Braff.

I didn’t hate the film though, and I like Zach Braff. It’s a good
story, a sweet movie, with a lot of heart. The chemistry was great. But
it’s just a little too precious for my tastes.

Go ahead, call me a Grumpy Shit.

6 Responses to “Garden State”

  1. guy
    January 9th, 2005 | 4:22 am

    hear hear! commenting live from the budapest airport.

    garden state worked, was moving, but – as a friend of mine said – ‘just targeted at your demographic’.

    and not only you (woman) were annoyed by the love story, i’ve also had it with all those stories (and eternal sunshine is another one) where the guy can be nice, and shy, and mess up three times, and still get the girl.

    because – ya know – love just keeps leaning on your door, waiting for you to feel just right to let it in.

    that’s what i hated about garden state.

    maybe that’s also part of the male fantasy.

  2. guy
    January 9th, 2005 | 4:22 am

    and i don’t like the sound of ‘snow’ in your post a-t a-l-l.

  3. cynthia rockwell
    January 9th, 2005 | 3:58 pm

    i guess a female version of that fantasy is something like bridget jones where the woman screws up 3,4,5,40 times and the guy is always perfect and patient and waiting for her (or rescuing her from thai prisons, etc).

    sorry but it’s c-o-l-d and icy here…definitely will be a shock to your system after a few weeks in israel.

  4. Sean
    January 10th, 2005 | 10:24 am

    I actually did hate the film, for many of the same reasons you describe. Didn’t anyone notice that Natalie Portman is playing exactly the same role she did as a 14 year old in Beautiful Girls? The film’s supposed “quirkiness” is all contrived, all surface and can’t disguise the unorignal, almost sitcom-level lameness of the story. Also, I never really got a good sense of setting–was any of it even filmed in New Jersey? Sure didn’t look like the Garden State I’ve been to.

  5. Lisa
    January 10th, 2005 | 10:30 am

    Yeah, not a big fan of the film either. Not worth trudging through the snow in my opinion. Wanted to like the film but was sorely disappointed. Just too contrived. Although to it’s merit I did like the cinematography and art design – that was cool. Still not worth getting your cool purple boots all soggy.

  6. cynthia rockwell
    January 10th, 2005 | 11:37 am

    yeah her little-girliness was a bit disturbing, actually. and it was all very contrived and sitcom-ish. but i do agree with what one guy said, that the film’s problems are the mark of a rookie, not an idiot. http://www.maisonneuve.org/blog/index.php?itemid=565