Garden State | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Garden State

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A comic gem, this coming-of-age story reminds me of the great social satires of the late 60s and early 70s--small films like The Graduate and Harold and Maude, whose alienated heroes bring us along for the ride as they navigate the absurdities and hypocrisies of modern life. Writer-director Zach Braff (who appears on the sitcom Scrubs) stars as a minor TV actor numbed by lithium since childhood; returning to his New Jersey hometown for his mother's funeral, he goes off his meds, an experiment complicated by his renewed friendships with various weirdos from high school. The movie never finds a consistent tone--the humor is dynamically offbeat, the dramatic moments a bit canned--but Braff's affection for his misfit characters and skeptical take on how people sell themselves short in America make this the truest generational statement I've seen since Donnie Darko. With Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ian Holm. R, 102 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley, River East 21.

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