Monday, November 28, 2005

Domesticity Reviews: Garden State

The verdict is in: I actually liked this movie. A little. But it's still overrated.

To be fair, the first half left me really, really cold - it's the kind of filmmaking that I would've found so deep when I was 18, but now strikes me as both precious and pretentious. It's as if Zach Braff had watched an entire marathon of Hal Hartley films and came out of the end of it saying, “Dude, I feel like writing my own movie, with, like, deep dialogue and meaningful imagery and drugs and cussing and stuff. It's gonna be, like, so f***ing cool.” Natalie Portman's character still seemed like a bad Mary Sue, with the worst aspects of Kate Winslet's character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and whoever it is that Kirsten Dunst was trying to play in Elizabethtown.

And yet, I couldn't look away, for a number of reasons. One being the Sarsgaard, which I'll get into later. Another being that Portman does get into character, and she's fascinating to watch as she goes from annoying to vulnerable to endearing. (I also suspect that she's also “letting go” - pun intended - by using her natural accent and hair texture with this role, and she's just running with it and having fun. Brava, Padme.) Most surprising, however, is that the soundtrack actually works in the context of the film - so much so that I actually found myself thinking, “The heck with the movie, I'm buying the soundtrack!”

(And even out of context, the soundtrack does not suck as I thought it would. Frou Frou, all is forgiven.)

So, yeah: the movie still comes off as a long form music video with better quality acting. But I can't say I hate myself for watching this, and neither should you.


And so we get to the subject of my new boyfriend, whose role in this movie is basically that of a scumbag - typical Peter Sarsgaard - but an adorable and amusing little scumbag nonetheless. I mean, I want to hate everything I'm seeing of him in this movie - robbing graves, doing drugs, ripping off stores - and yet he's got that sly canary-eating grin on his face, and he's messing around with the guitar and extolling his own aimlessness... and he's so watchable and charming even when he's playing someone scummy and oblivious.

That, folks, is the mark of a darn good actor for you - when he can make you like him even in a hateful role. As I've said before, as long as he doesn't take himself too seriously and turn into Ethan Hawke, or Edward Norton, he'll always be my boo.

Which got me thinking: Somebody needs to cast Peter Sarsgaard in a comedy. Not just any comedy, but an intentional comedy, where he does not play a slacker scumbag, or a white trash scumbag, or a yuppie scumbag, or even a bisexual yuppie scumbag. Something deliberately ridiculous, like Wedding Crashers or The 40 Year Old Virgin, except that he gets to play one of the good guys. (See: Rudd, Paul.) Heck, throw in a song-and-dance karaoke bar sequence where Pete makes a damn fool of himself to the tune of “In Da Club,” and I'll be more than happy to pay full price on opening day.

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