Whimsical, romantic, funny and surprisingly moving, “Garden State,” opening at the Smith Opera House on Dec. 2, is the kind of movie that reminds you why you love movies so much, a film filled with unexpected energy and ambition and sly intelligence.
All this comes courtesy of writer-director-star Zach Braff, the hitherto unheralded star of the TV show “Scrubs.” While the guy has certainly established his comic-acting chops on television, there was no indication that he was anything beyond funny. Now there's indication aplenty. And he's still funny.
“Garden State” is the story of Andrew Largeman (Braff), otherwise known as Large, a struggling 20-something actor in Hollywood who comes home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral. After arriving, he immediately rekindles some old friendships, while striking up a new one with the eccentric Sam (Natalie Portman), who aside from being female also is a pet lover, chronic liar and an epileptic.
Partying with friends gives Large a convenient excuse to avoid his uptight psychiatrist father (Ian Holm), who has kept Large dosed with various drugs for the past decade, hypothetically to help him deal with a tragedy in his past. But Large has just now decided to stop taking his pills and see what reality looks like.
So Large is coming home to a world he left behind while also coming out of his psychic cocoon, all while falling in love.
The world he's come home to is a parade of eccentric folks, from his old friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), currently getting by as a gravedigger/graverobber, to the former stoner buddy who's now a cop, and a sudden-millionaire pal who invented silent Velcro and now hosts wild parties at his mansion.
As Large comes to consciousness in the film, he's presented with ever-outrageous slices of life, not to mention the electric personality of Sam. Essentially, he spends the entire movie awakening to the possibilities of life and love.
The Smith Opera House screens “Garden State” at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3, at 2 p.m. Dec.5 and at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7. It has a running time of one hour 49 minutes and is rated R for language, drug use and a scene of sexuality.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. All seats are $3 on Thursdays and $2 on Tuesdays. Call 781-5483 or toll-free 866-355-5483 for details or to reserve tickets.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. The Smith is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.