Sunday, September 12, 2004


all shins and smiles

Memo to Natalie Portman: It's ok, everything is forgiven.

After the incredible performance you had in The Professional we just had really high expectations. You seemed so talented and charismatic but as you matured, you also blossomed into this too-cute-for-your-own-good, girl-next-door type. Heck, HH sat next to you in class at Harvard and said you were whip-smart - our admiration only ballooned. But then you signed up as Queen Amidala and we began to despair.

We hate to say it but your acting (while markedly better than Hayden Christenson's, but then again, who's isn't?) was just terrible in Attack of the Clones. It's not your fault - it's George Lucas and the Dark Side of his script-writing - but nevertheless, one shouldn't wince at your dramatic lines but the love scenes between you and Anakin had us ready to go all hari kari with our lightsabers.

Thank god for Zach Braff and Garden State. We (now I mean S and I) finally went to go see the film after everyone, their neighbor and my sister Jessica said: "go see this!" Jesse even saw it twice. So we did and we were mightily impressed: you were wonderful. In playing Sam, you became this tightly wound ball of anxiety and energy and emotion and charm. It reminded us that, hey, you can act when you're not caked under 12 pounds of makeup, wearing a ridiculous headdress and talking with frog people. Nat's back!

In all seriousness, I can see why my sister liked this film: it effectively romanticizes contemporary, 20-something angst using attractive actors and is scored nicely by The Shins, Coldplay, and Nick Drake (unbelievably, no Elliot Smith but I guess that would have been too '90s). Many have already made the comparison between this and The Graduate and I think that's quite apt given how both try to make sense of the unique neuroses that seem to afflict 20-somethings in each era. Of course, Dustin Hoffman wasn't whacked up on 15 years worth of lithium in The Graduate but Braff also wasn't diddling his girlfriend's mom in Garden State. As I'm sure others noted also - seeing Braff on Scrubs to this movie requires just a lil readjustment but hey, I'm onboard with his future film aspirations. Better him than Sofia Coppola whose filmmaking touches are just far more precious.

I do have to disagree with Jesse on one thing: this was so not better than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so far Pop Life's favorite American movie of the year (go see Last Life in the Universe this Friday - our favorite foreign flick). I think this reveals a generation gap: Eternal Sunshine is much more about 30-something romance, or better said, the death of said romance. In other words, it picks up where Garden State leaves off: the wacky couple that doesn't know what to do may seem charming in GS, but ES shows us what happens to them half a decade later, long after the initial spark has dimmed.

For all its sci-fi inventiveness, ES felt true to anyone who's ever wanted to forget a past relationship (and let's face it, if you've never felt like that, you're probably just too young right now). Charlie Kaufman is able to get into your headspace with that premise but he gets us to be invested in understanding both the good and bad parts of the star-crossed lovers from Eternal Sunshine. In contrast, Garden State reflects the optimism that comes at the beginning of a potentially beautiful and/or volatile relationship: that feel-good quality is more tempered by unease in ES and it's far removed from the powerful ambivalency that marks the end of The Graduate.

Personally, while I liked Garden State, it's still not F-ing with the definitive 20-something film of my generation: Say Anything. Sure, it was another brilliant, funny film that also nods to The Graduate but it had such personality, charm and humor that wasn't as knowingly ironic as Say Anything. Of course, Seattle isn't as nearly ripe for ridicule as New Jersey but I also think the differences in the two films are completely generational: GS's inclusion of drugs, underage sex, depression medication and young millionaires is far more tapping into a contemporary moment of young adult life whereas the most zeitgeisty quality to Say Anything was the fact that Lloyd was a kick-boxer.

Anyways, Garden State gets the Pop Life approval but if you haven't seen any of the other films mentioned: The Graduate, Say Anything, Eternal Sunshine or the forthcoming Last Life in the Universe - get thee to a video store or theater this weekend.


  • Mad Magazine asks what would Jesus do vs. Dubya?
    (credit: pnuthouse)

  • Does Dick Cheney eBay? You betcha.
    (credit: Cowboys n' Poodles)

  • Cool, but really dorky.