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Chasing The American Dream

November 30, 2004


Last of a three-part series upon seeing the movie, Garden State.

"I didn't loyk that movie at awll." "Me eitha." I laughed as I overheard this conversation while the closing credits rolled to the sounds of Frou Frou. I thought to myself, I wonder why? You guys didn't get any of the precious subtleties and humor whatsoever! What the hell did you expect?

I went to see Garden State again last week. I was drawn to it; I had to see it again for the third time. Don't worry, they're not showing it anymore so I'm saved. When I walked in, I figured I'd be the only soul in theater number seven. There was barely anyone in the theater the last time I saw GS the previous week, and the movie had been out for over three months. So I walked in to theater #7 expecting to have the house to myself; boy was I wrong! It seemed I would be sharing the theater with the local Jewish convalescence home; the joint was filled with old people. I sat next to and in front of two sets of elderly Jewish women who were yapping about how little they knew about the movie. The Activities Director dude made some announcements for the folks, thanked them for coming, and handed out some pamphlets. My 'friends' next to me passed me one. I laughed. The pamphlet read, "Buy one, get one free something-or-other."

I took a pad and pen into the theater because I wanted to jot down some notes on the soundtrack songs played as they related to the specific scenes. I'm glad I did because I ended up jotting down notes for this post. Anyway, I recalled that the movie contained lots of scenes with subtle humor. I love that kind where the humor's there, but you gotta be paying attention to it. It's not one of those Robin Williams, slap you in the face, can't miss humor-type movies. Perhaps that the oldies should have stuck to that type of movie because they sure didn't get this one. The pattern started right off the bat.

The first scene in the movie, "Largeman" (Zach Braff) is awaken by his father with the news that his mother died. He ambles to the bathroom and opens the medicine chest. The whole chest is filled with prescription pill bottles. Seemingly hundreds of them, and there was nothing else in the chest. I think I was the only person in the theater who laughed.

In the next scene, the audience realizes that 'Large' is late for work and is frantically driving like a madman to get there. When he gets out of his car, he notices a gas nozzle is still in his gas tank and the hose has been ripped away. He just looks at it curiously and simply tosses it in the garbage. If you're keeping score at home, it's 2 laughs for me, 0 for the rest of the audience.

Next scene. Large is washing his face in the airport bathroom. As he walks out, the automatic sink faucets turn on in tandem right down the line like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. 3 to 0. At this point, I'm a little weirded out because I'm the only one laughing. It was at this point when I started to take notes. I jotted down my top baker's dozen subtle moments of humor. Obviously, a lot of these are "you had to be there" moments so bear with me.

Number 4 (pictured). After his mother's funeral, the family gathers at the Largeman home. Large's aunt is speaking to him in a thick Jewish accent. She explains that before his 'mutha' died, she had redone the hallway bathroom with a very nice pattern. She then tells Large she has made a shirt for him with the exact pattern used in the hallway bathroom. The next scene cuts to Large wearing the patterned shirt, standing by the hallway bathroom, completely blended into the wallpaper, wearing this incredulous look on his face.

Number 5. Large attends a wild sex, drugs, and rock & roll party with his boyhood friends. He is awaken by the steps of a strange knight in shiny, clanky armor. The audience then sees the word "Balls" has been scrawled on the unsuspecting Large's forehead. 5 to 0.

Number 6. Large goes to see a doctor about some acute headaches he's been getting. He walks into the doctor's office which is absolutely plastered wall-to-wall with plaques and awards. The camera slowly pans the wall and then up to the ceiling which also has a plaque or two on it.

Number 7. The doctor gives Large and MRI. We see Large slowly being transported into the apparatus. The camera does a slo-mo zoom until we can see Large's frontal shirtless body which is entirely covered with X-Rated graffiti similar to the "Balls" graffiti he had on his forehead.

Number 8. Large has met the wonderful Samantha (Natalie Portman). He agrees to take her home on his scooter, but tells her he needs to stop at his millionaire friend Jessie's (Armando Riesco) house. She agrees but says she doesn't want to stay long. She and Large agree that when she tugs on her ear, it means she's ready to go. Jessie has made millions by inventing silent Velcro. Velcro without the scraping sound. Jessie has no ambition and doesn't do much with his life. The scene cuts to the Jessie's house where he has a flaming arrow to which he shoots straight up into the sky. In a weird sort of dodgeball-type game, the gang scrambles to get out of the way of the falling, flaming arrow. After seeing the gang stagger around to avoid the arrow, the arrow comes crashing down and lands about a foot away from Samantha. She looks at Large with a horrified face and tugs her ear.

Number 9. The gang is sitting around talking. Jessie is trying to think of the author's name who wrote 'Brave New World.' He thinks he's figured it out and says proudly, "Huxtable. That's it. Aldous Huxtable."

Number 10. Large is at Sam's house watching a video of Sam ice skating in a performance when she was younger. After the video, Large and Sam's mom and adopted brother give her an ovation. All of a sudden the lights go out in the house. After a brief moment of confusion, Titembay the brother, claps once again and the lights come back on. Ah, the family has the dreaded 'clapper.' Everybody sing with me, "Clap on, clap off."

Number 11. The gang is over at Jessie the millionaire's house going for a swim. Everyone jumps in the pool except for Large who's hesitant. The gang questions Large whether or not he can swim. He says, "Of course I can swim." The scene then cuts to Large doing a sad doggie paddle across the pool.

Number 12. After the pool, the gang is sitting on the furniture-less floor getting warm in front of a huge fireplace. Large's friend Mark (Peter Saarsgaard) asks the Jessie the millionaire, "How 'bout some fucking chairs, man?" Jessie responds with, "I bought a chair once. Didn't like it." Large asks, "Where is it?" Jessie points at the fireplace and says, "It's keeping us warm."

Number 13. My favorite. Remember #5 above? Yeah, underneath the suit of armor is a young kid who slept with Mark's drunken mother. During that scene, Mark clearly disapproves of this young dude and they trade insults before Mark says, "Get the fuck outta my house." Fast forward to the latter part of the movie. Mark and Large are arguing. It's Large's last day in town before he has to leave and he wanted to spend it alone with Sam. Mark insisted on taking a road trip of sorts. After suffering through a wild goose chase seemingly going nowhere, Large loses his cool and they argue. Sam interjects and says Large is, "her knight in shining armor." Large says to her, "Don't mention knights around Mark, it's a sore subject." To which Mark thinks a second and responds with, "I'm gonna kill that motherfucker." Large then delivers the classic line, "Pun intended?" I totally lose it in my chair.
Final score? Todd 13, audience 0. Isn't any wonder why we all often have such differing opinions as we walk out of the movie theatres discussing the movie? Sure, maybe we disagree on the depth and breadth of the characters and the quality of the acting. But sometimes, apparently, we don't even 'see' the same movie. Now, THAT'S funny!


  • My girlfriend and I love that movie. Bought the sound track the next day. Those were some of my favorite moments too. Will definitely own the video once it is on DVD.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 AM, November 30, 2004  

  • Anon...According to the man Zach Braff, the DVD will be available on December 28th. Look for me at the head of the line...

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:11 AM, November 30, 2004  

  • Damn! You gave away 13 (of the probably 150 or so) funny scenes...now I don't have to go see it.

    Oh, and yeh; having lived in Boca Raton for the last 5 years, I know EXACTLY the type of people that were in the theatre. They were there too, for me, when I went to see Scorsese's "Gangs of New York." One of their feckin' cell phones went off in the middle of a great scene w/Daniel Day-Lewis:



    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 2:33 PM, November 30, 2004  

  • Great post. I saw "Garden State" twice, earlier in the fall, and your post was like a little refresher. Cannot wait for the DVD to come out.

    The Aldous Huxtable joke is my absolute favorite. I'm not sure that I was the only person in the theater who understood it, but I was definitely the only one who fell out of her seat laughing at it.

    Did you know that Zach Braff has a "Garden State" blog?

    By Blogger A, at 12:14 PM, December 01, 2004  

  • ALDOUS HUXTABLE?!!! Damn, that rocks. I HAVE GOT to see this film.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 1:37 PM, December 01, 2004  

  • There you are... *smiles*

    By Blogger Lois Lane, at 10:56 AM, July 01, 2007  

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