A Decade After "Garden State"
From the moment I saw the trailer for “Garden State” I knew that I was going to love it. I had seen a handful of episodes of “Scrubs” and always found it to be funny, fresh, and a cut above other network sitcoms. I hadn’t really seen Zach Braff in much else but I enjoyed him none-the-less.
Something about the trailer really grabbed me. The song was perfect, the visuals were interesting, and style was unique. What’s odd is that the trailer has zero dialogue, which is usually what I find most interesting in films seeing as I want to be a writer and all. Since our movie house only had five auditoriums I could hear the trailer playing on any given film. When I did hear it I would run in to watch it in all its glory — sometimes even yelling out “best trailer ever!”
The day that “Garden State” opened at my little arthouse theatre in Scottsdale I had actually seen it for the third time. One of the advantages of being a manager is that I got to build and screen the prints that came in. Normally I would build the film on a Thursday night but we had a press screening for the film at the theatre across the street. Luckily for my impatient self the print arrived on the Monday before. I screened it and it was everything I hoped it would be. After that I ended up getting a pass to the press screening where I even won a bag of promotional materials for the film including a barely-fitting girl’s cut shirt that I still wear. Then finally I saw the third matinee showing of it that Friday with a few of my friends.
Up to that point there had been a tie for the film I had seen most in theatres. “Garden State” now joined “Love Actually”, “Jimmy Neutron” and other movies I can’t remember at three in-theatre views apiece. Over the course of the next few months “Garden State” would go on to obliterate that record.
The film released at a very weird time in my life. I had just graduated high school and was going to be attending university in Flagstaff a couple hours away. Several of my “Garden State” viewing served as going-away hangouts with my various friends.
During one such outing, I found the courage to insist that the girl I had “secretly” had a crush on kiss me during the “infinite abyss” sequence where Andrew and Sam kiss in the rain. She agreed and that night made it even harder to leave the Valley behind.
By the time I moved to Northern Arizona University “Garden State” had been out for several weeks, However, given it’s success in limited release, the film kept expanding. The week I started at the Flagstaff theatre the film finally opened there. This inspired another round of viewings as some people I had known from school and new friends I had made all wanted to see it. This is probably because I talked about it incessantly and frequently wore that aforementioned girl’s sized t-shirt around campus.
While I identify with it, there is not a whole lot in “Garden State” or with Andrew Largeman I can say I identify with. I’m not an actor, I’m not Jewish and my mother isn’t dead — nor was I responsible for any tragedy in her life that I know of. What did speak to me was Large’s quest to find something he really cared about. I had chosen to attend college because that’s what I was supposed to do and I choose to study journalism because I liked writing. That didn’t mean I actually wanted to do either.
Like Large, I had also chosen to move away and do things on my own. I also told myself that that was fine because I didn’t need anyone. However, like Andrew turned out to be, I am a hopeless romantic. I still had hope that something or someone would come along and save me from myself.
Perhaps the time in my life I felt the most like Andrew Largeman happened later that year when my grandmother died. My friend Mic summed it up best when he texted me to say, “It’ll be great to go to Jersey again — Sucks you’re going for a funeral... Large.”
On my 19th birthday, I added a tattoo to my growing collection. I took the outline of the state of New Jersey and Photoshopped in Zach, Natalie and Peter. If anyone gave me crap about having a movie tattooed on my arm I could justify it by explaining I was also from Jersey. And if anyone gave me crap about having a Jersey tattoo when I was barely from there, I could explain that it was just a movie.
The 10th and final time I saw the film in theatres was at a dollar theatre in the Valley when I came down to visit. By that time the friends I went with had seen it plenty of times as well —just not as many as me. This same group of friends accompanied me to purchase the DVD at midnight from a Wal Mart the night it was released. It seems pretty silly to buy a movie the second it comes out, but it was largely ceremonial anyway.
After one year in Flagstaff I moved back down to Phoenix. I initially planned to attend ASU but was instead drawn to Scottsdale Community College for their film program. While my parents of course wanted me to pursue a four-year degree, I choose to try film school instead.
In the end, that didn’t quite work out either, but I had taken the first step to finding what would truly make me happy. For that, I believe I have Zach Braff and “Garden State” to thank.