Director Zach Braff
Starring Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm
The first 25 minutes of Garden State play like an assembly-line US indie charmer, with writer/ director/star Zach Braff as a melancholic TV actor returning home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral. But when you're about to roll your eyes at yet another quirk-bomb moment, Natalie Portman shows up to defibrillate Garden State into real, pulsing life - - just like she does to Braff's over-medicated hero. Her role, as a sweet, sexy compulsive liar, is straight out of the first-time screenwriter's fantasy manual, but Portman still delivers an expressive, affecting turn. The rest of the cast, including Peter Sarsgaard as Braff's stoner friend, also help the Scrubs star on his way to a smart, unconventional and - - say it - charming debut.
Matching its maker's laid-back demeanour, State's bonuses are a chilled-out collection of giggly outtakes, a cosy Making Of and an ark's worth of deleted and extended scenes. Most of them overegged State's “quirk” factor, with Braff defending his reasons behind more painful excisions in a deleted scenes commentary. The friends-hanging-out atmosphere is sustained by two feature commentaries, both starring Braff. The gab-track with his technical crew is fun and detailed, but of utmost appeal is the chatty two-hander with Portman, Braff disclosing how “hot” he found his co-star in various scenes and the Star Wars actress winding him up with her droll questioning. ““A lot of people don't get my Aldous Huxtable joke”,” grumbles Braff. ““Do you think they don't get it,”” Portman replies, ““or they just don't think it's funny?”