March 06, 2005

Garden State with Friday Night Lights

In a long series of movie reviews, next up is Garden State. It is one of those rare indie movies that take off. I’m amazed that I hadn’t even heard of this one before getting it from a friend; and am really thankful to him for it.

Again, to be blunt, you can call this a love story. I don’t despise love stories, there are quite a few worth watching, and this is one of the good ones. Written, directed and starred in by Zach Braff, who even selected the soundtrack to boot. I really like movies that are one guy’s pet project, they feel a lot more personal. He even maintains a blog on this movie.

OK, on with the plot. Andrew Largeman lives in the big city as a struggling actor who just had one big role. He has been on Lithium most of his life; his father (played by Ian Holm) is also his psychiatrist. He’s not been home to Garden State in 9 years, ever since he left for boarding school. Then his mother dies, and he had to go back.

From the start you see the extent to which he finds himself isolated; numb from the world. A few scenes, like the swimming-pool scene a little later on, really emphasize this. Oh, did I mention that he meets a girl — Sam (played excellently by Natalie Portman). Sam’s epileptic, a pathological liar, empathic and weird from the first scene (‘Kick him in the balls’). Needless to say, Andrew falls for Sam and so on.

But it’s the little weird scenes of the movie that pay off, and will be remembered. I really liked the ‘guardian of the infinite abyss’ sequence. A few moments of drug-induced haze near the beginning are also great. Hell, I could probably watch the movie again and again repeatedly. The leisurely pace at which the story unfolds is great.

In conclusion, a movie to watch. Try and get it if you’re a movie buff.

Now, lets start with Friday Night Lights. You get to see the ever versatile Billy Bob Thronton playing a (American) football coach in this one. It’s your typical sports movie, but not quite. There’s just something here that’s not quite predictable. Like other sports movies (Rudy, Remember the Titans…), the story’s aimed at showing the limits of the ‘human spirit’, whatever that is. And the complexities of winning/losing.

And we have teenage boys thinking that the most important moments in their lives will pass by at the age of 18. I’d be sad if anyone I knew ever felt like this; and I’m not much of a (team) sports guy anyway. And I don’t understand the importance given to sports in American culture as it is. Still, most people who see this movie will end up feeling really touched.

It was great fun, just not my favourite kind of fun. The fact that it does not have your usual ‘underdogs win all’ ending makes it worth watching.

Oh, and I’ll have to go to college from tomorrow. Will have to finish almost a whole semester’s work in the coming month. Ughh…

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