Thursday, January 06, 2005

Garden State

On New Year's Eve, Smartmom and Teen Spirit watched half of "Garden State." Teen Spirit had just purchased the DVD, which was released on December 28th. When Hepcat asked, "Why don't you just rent it from Netflix?" Teen Spirit replied: "This one's a keeper, Dad. This one's a keeper."

Smartmom knows exactly what he means.

"Garden State" is now officially Teen Spirit's second favorite movie. After "Blazing Saddles," that is. He went to see it at the Park Slope Pavillion with Best Buddy. It was the first movie he'd ever gone to alone with a friend. And what a great first movie to see without parents! The two guys must've been exhilarated by this dark comedy with the great soundtrack and characters just a little bit older than they are.

The film grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. It's funny, it's smart and it really goes deep. Much of the credit must go to Zach Braff who wrote, directed and stars. Braff plays Andrew, a sad, lost 20-something whose been sleepwalking though his over-medicated life. With unbelievably expressive eyes, Braff underacts through the movie creating a funny and honest character on the verge of self-discovery.

The film co-stars Smartmom's new favorite actor, Peter Sarsgaard. His bedroom eyes were a highlight of the recent "Kinsey." In this one he plays the cool, dark stoner guy from high school who still lives at home and works as a grave digger.

Natalie Portman is totally believable as a suburban teen from New Jersey. As the girl who helps Andrew feel again, her wacky mannerisms and funny personality really make the movie.

Mother and son watched the movie on the tiny screen of Teen Spirit's iBook. He kept asking Smartmom if she was enjoying the movie. Teen Spirit loves to show his favorite films often pausing the disk to ask, "Did you get that? Did you get that?"

On New Year's Eve, they only got up to the "burying the hamster" scene. It was late and Smartmom was tired (Teen Spirit is almost never tired).

Last night, when Smartmom's insomnia forced her out of bed at 2 a.m., she decided to watch the film from the hamster scene on. And she wasn't disappointed—the film really delivers on the promise of its first half.

As she watched, Smartmom found herself watching the film as two people: as herself and as her son. For her, "Garden State" is "The Graduate" for generation Z. Like that now classic dramedy, it is a film about the quest for identity, love, and meaning with humor, sex, and great music.

For Teen Spirit, Smartmom imagines that "Garden State" must confirm his sense that there is more to life than what your parents tell you, what you learn in school.

Clearly, he is just beginning develop his identity, to figure out who he wants to be.
And this film is packed with interesting characters who are trying to figure that stuff out too - with humor, attitude and a hefty dose of poignancy.

There's a scene near the end of the movie when Andrew screams out loud in the rain (he and his friends are wearing black plastic garbage bags). As he screams, it's as if he is letting go of all the negative things he's come to believe about himself. He isn't numb anymore, he isn't sleepwalking, he doesn't need the meds: he wants to feel his feelings and reach for love.

Not that he knows how to do it. And that's okay. That's even the point.

Smartmom shed a tear imagining what the next few years will be like for Teen Spirit. She wondered if he will move with ease from one stage to the next or will his journey will be riddled with pain and confusion (hope not). Will he accept help from his parents or want to go it alone? She hopes he doesn't experience as many missteps and mistakes as she has. But she can't protect him from the exploration that lies ahead. That's all part of the process of becoming a person - what it means to be alive.


At 7:58 PM, Blogger brooklynfox said...

SM, so funny. I got this movie from netflix this week. Haven't watched it yet and thought today about bringing it to you to watch while in bed. Then I thought you were probably all set with stuff to watch and read (with Hep, TS, and BS tending to your every need) so I didn't do it. Meanwhile, you've seen it and I haven't so I can't read the whole post for fear of taking your impressions to heart and not being able to view the movie with an open mind. (Even though I'm sure I'd agree with whatever you say.) Anyway, I get the idea that you liked it very much. I've heard it's great. I'll tell you what I think when I finally pop it in. Feel good. RFJ

At 7:58 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i really enjoyed your piece about Garden State and about TeenSpirit. It was very touching. You're a sensitive mom. Glad you're mind is clear and you're feeling better. love MIW

At 6:24 AM, Blogger red eft said...

One thing we can say about TS is that he is not in a Garden State. He comes from a much warmer nest.

I saw this film, and I vote Sarsgaard for best new wonderful actor, too. See also Shattered Glass, anybody who hasn't. It got by me, theater ignoramus that I am, that he was in Burn This with Elizabeth Shue. I'll bet that is good.

Now I must go put a garbage bag over me and scream.


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