Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Garden State

New Jersey. Princeton. The birthplace of Bruce Springsteen. The Sopranos. Red Bull and Vodka. And the setting for this movie.

Our main character, Andrew Largeman, or just Large, seems calm as the movie opens. He's just sitting there in his plane seat, the middle seat, staring dead forward. The people on either side of him are decidely not calm; they are going ballistic, grabbing him, crying, hysterical blubbering messes. Oxygen masks drop, drink carts slam down the center aisle. The plane is going down. And its going down to some very intriguing Bollywood music. His heart-wrenching emotional reaction? He reaches up and adjusts his air vent.

Perfect. You can almost feel this like Valium deadening any errant emotion.

The plane-crash dream sequence ends and he wakes up in his bedroom. White carpet, white walls, white curtains. Him in his white bed, tucked neatly under his white sheets and, of course, wearing a white t-shirt. The scene is shot from above a slowly turning ceiling fan. Yep, you got it, its a white fan; 60's minimalism at its finest.

The phone rings, he ignores it. The machine picks up, its dad. Dad wavers a little on the phone, then reluctantly leaves a message. 'You need to come home, your mom is dead.' No shock, no crying, no movement, he stares blankly at the white ceiling fan and the scene fades.

Excellent. The lithium has kicked in, forcing the world to keep tempo with the turning of the fan blades. And this is, in fact, Large's situation, he has been numbed-up and faded on anti-depressants for most of his life, at least since that unfortunate experience with his mother when he was 9.

A quirky start to this off-beat life-living film, a quirkiness that permeates every scene. Even though the situations in this film are slightly off-center they feel possible and every bit real.

The music in Garden State is incredible. Anyone who can combine The Shins, Coldplay and Simon & Garfunkle in perfect harmony in the space of one movie has my vote for genius. Not only did I love all of the music, each song seemed fitting for the mood and setting.

The framing up of scenes is minimal and brilliant; odd angles and unexpected pan backs give an edgy underscore and blends well with the theme of the movie.

About that, the theme, I think one scene stands as a visual metaphor -- Large, his kinda-girlfriend and another sorta-friend are in a isolated forest. All three are standing on top of a CAT tractor, laughing, howling and screaming into heavy rain. You're not given a reason for why this is happening, it adds absolutely nothing to the immediate plot, it just is.

And thats life, baby. Despite all of our well-educated analysis, our neurotic need to figure things out, our well-intended mission to align it all to some context and give it meaning, sometimes it still makes no sense, it just is ... and you can't get more real than that.


Blogger Adam said...

Great review. I've been wanting to see that movie but have just been kind of ambivalent about it, now i'll definately check it out.

9:46 AM

Blogger theclamwhisperer said...

That's a wonderful synopsis of the movie. I love it and you made me want to view it again. Hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving. I can only assume you are cooking something spectacular. I look forward to that review.

12:53 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Adam, you would enjoy. Its a masterpiece in its own right. Entertaining on one level and quite philosophical on another.

9:51 PM

Blogger Jim said...

You know CatchYa,

This year I left the cooking to Noeha, she is fabulous cook. I did ante up with some Hummous and a Tomato-Basil-Monz salad in garlic olive oil but nothing major. Hope yours was wonderful and hopefully 13-yo drama free :)

9:55 PM


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