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Garden State

You know Zach Braff from TV’s Scrubs. But his debut here as a screenwriter and director isn’t intended as a sitcom time-killer. With Garden State, Braff wants to show you his version of The Graduate, he wants to stuff his big feelings into one little movie, he wants to change the world. It doesn’t totally pull it off, but what strange and marvelous fun to watch him try. Braff as Large, a waiter and wanna-be L.A. actor who returns to his New Jersey home for his mother’s funeral. The event prompts Large to drop his Zoloft habit, reconcile with his dad (Ian Holm), hook up with a school buddy (a terrific Peter Sarsgaard) and find the love of his life in a sweet-crazy-sexy, Shins-loving pathological liar named Sam, played by Natalie Portman in a funny and touching performance you shouldn’t even try to resist. The same goes for Braff’s movie. It’s a hilarious and heartfelt ode to twentysomething angst. Braff has himself a winner.

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