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Thread: Garden State

  1. #1
    New Jersey Ambassador Admin & Founder JerseyDevil's Avatar
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    Default Garden State

    Quirky 'Garden State' celebrates Jersey life

    Sunday, August 8, 2004 Posted: 4:16 AM EDT (0816 GMT)

    Zach Braff and Natalie Portman star in "Garden State," a quirky romantic comedy written and directed by Braff.


    NEW YORK (Reuters) -- New Jersey is not about belching smokestacks, bumper to bumper highway traffic and "Sopranos" gang slayings to Zach Braff.

    It is home and inspiration to the 29-year-old filmmaker who wrote, directed and stars in the quirky romantic comedy "Garden State," and joins a growing number of young, home-grown moviemakers celebrating life in the oft-skewered state.

    "Any time you're from a place that becomes the butt of all the jokes you get defensive about it," says Braff, whose film takes its title from New Jersey's official nickname.

    The offbeat homage to his suburban roots in South Orange, some 20 miles west of glamorous New York City, co-stars Natalie Portman ("Star Wars") and Peter Sarsgaard ("Shattered Glass"). The film opens nationwide this month.

    "I loved growing up there and never really understood what people joked about. It's possibly about living in the shadow of the greatest city in the world, Manhattan," said Braff, who has an ongoing role in the NBC hospital sitcom "Scrubs."

    "It's like having an older brother that's an Olympic athlete."

    Braff scores high marks for a movie based on experiences, stories he heard and read about and a large dose of imagination that won acclaim at the Sundance festival and has reminded some critics of coming-of-adulthood films such as "The Graduate."

    With this entertaining debut, Braff adds his name to a list of emerging filmmakers from New Jersey who have locally made independent movies, including Kevin Smith ("Clerks"), Todd Solondz ("Happiness") and Tom McCarthy ("The Station Agent").

    The New Jersey connection extends further as "Garden State," was produced by Jersey Films, a production company co-founded by actor-director Danny DeVito.

    "Being a Jersey guy myself I'm very thrilled he wrote about New Jersey and going home," said executive producer DeVito.

    This homecoming is not about prom queens and picket fences. Its eccentric characters careen between cemeteries of the human and pet variety, from a pot-smoking, pill-popping basement party to a gaping quarry with a boat perched on its edge.

    "Garden State" tells the tale of aspiring actor Andrew Largeman, numbed out on lithium prescribed by his psychiatrist father (played by Ian Holm), who returns home from Los Angeles after a nine-year absence to attend his mother's funeral.

    You from Jersey?
    Along the helter-skelter way, Largeman ditches his pills, rediscovers a motley crew of friends, mends fences with his father and finds love. The evocative soundtrack features tunes from artists including Coldplay, Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, The Shins and Colin Hay.

    "This is a wonderful advertisement for the state," said Steve Gorelick, associate director of the New Jersey Film and Television Commission.

    "To have a movie called 'Garden State,' how could it get better? Here's a movie written for New Jersey, set in New Jersey, shot in New Jersey by a New Jersey filmmaker."

    The diminutive DeVito, who like Largeman has emigrated to California, says he still returns to Asbury Park to visit family and is proud of his Jersey heritage, shared by the likes of Jack Nicholson born in Neptune and rocker Bruce Springsteen of Freehold.

    "We have a lot of (creative) people in New Jersey. We have to hold up that tradition," he said, adding that the very roots of filmmaking are in New Jersey.

    The movie camera and projector were invented by Thomas Edison in his West Orange laboratory in the late 19th century and the first film studio complex grew up in Fort Lee after the turn of the century before the industry shifted west to make use of all that sunshine and escape copyrights held by Edison.

    Now Braff and the other young lions are helping put New Jersey back on the movie map.

    Gorelick said last year 78 feature films were shot in New Jersey along with 154 TV episodes and specials. "This state is a caldron of creativity," he said.

    Some stereotypes help, according to Gorelick.

    "Sopranos made New Jersey a chic place to make TV," he said, calling the award-winning HBO series about a Mafia boss and his suburban family "the watershed event in terms of TV."

    For Braff, the diversity of his South Orange upbringing and a sense of home drove him to begin writing the script while he was a film student at Northwestern University in Illinois.

    "It's about being homesick for that lost feeling of feeling like I had a home," he said about the film.
    This is a movie I will be going to see opening day. I'm not sure what to expect. It still seems like it might be playing up the grity, stereotypes of New Jersey, but I want to see it for myself. It is getting rave reviews and I think it's great that New Jersey is making so many people eat their words about our great state.

    It still irritates me when reporters say things such as..."New Jersey is not about belching smokestacks, bumper to bumper highway traffic and "Sopranos" gang slayings to Zach Braff." As if New Jersey has a lot of smokestacks - we actually have very few except along the turnpike by Rahway. But hey - the reporter is probably from NY and had never even really stepped foot into New Jersey. New Yorkers I think find this need to continue to try to reinforce the stereotypes - otherwise vacationers might find out how much better New Jersey is than New York.

  2. #2
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    ooh ooh! I want to go! *holds up hand*

  3. #3
    New Jersey Ambassador Admin & Founder JerseyDevil's Avatar
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    I really did enjoy the movie. Saw it twice and wanted to go more. Natalie Portman was awesome. I don't get how the movie is supposed to put NJ in a "good light" though. The characters are basically all freaks. It's a sureal type movie where it's almost like a strange dream where people represent people one knows - but with huge exagerations in their characters. That I suppose is the best way to describe it.

    I have the sound track and can't wait to get it on DVD. There just seems to be something very "comforting" about the movie.

  4. #4
    New Jerseyan Nurvingiel's Avatar
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    Natalie Portman and Zach Braff were totally awesome. I really enjoyed this movie. I agree, it was surreal. It was kind of like "Napoleon Dynamite" in New Jersey, with a plot and hot actors.

    My favourite scene was the one at the abandonned mine. The whole scenario (in the boat house and everything) was awesome.

    Maybe it portrays New Jersey in a good light because... um... it has pretty cities and streets? There were a number of nice street shots.

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    Recent Resident 131 Dukes St.'s Avatar
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    I must order the DVD.

  6. #6
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    I haven't seen that one yet!

    I like Natalie Portman both Zach Braff so I must look out for it

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