Movies like Forrest Gump are timeless. Anyone at any age can watch and be drawn in by the story of a man that defies the hand he’s been dealt. Then there are movies like The Breakfast Club that are about a state of mind. It’s not a “had to be there” but rather a “had to be a teen” thing. When I think of Garden State, I think it falls somewhere between the two. It has this universal appeal while at the same time resonates most with those who fall in a certain age bracket. I was 17 when it came out, 18 when I saw it and every other line was, at the time, this larger than life moment. However, I don’t think that’s the age you come to really appreciate Zach Braff’s gem. You had to have lived a little, felt like an outsider a little longer than a middle school run, to really get it.
Leaving home because you’re old enough is one thing, but being forced out of the only place you’ve ever known is another. Andrew’s life was flipped inside out and upside down thanks to a piece of broken plastic, and was sent away. Only to return almost a decade later to bury the woman who’d carried him nine months. A sour history with his family made Andrew’s return more than awkward. He felt out of place in between the four walls that housed his baby pictures because it wasn’t home, and over the course of a few days he came to realize where home really was.
The fact that Natalie Portman didn’t win an Oscar for her role as Sam is beyond me, but nevertheless she remains this zany girl next door adorned with a prescribed helmet who ends up flipping Andrew’s life outside in and right side up. The end result being that it doesn’t matter where you are, home is not the walls constructed that house your shit, it’s about where you feel the most like you and who you feel like yourself with.
Garden State resonated with many who hadn’t even left home yet when it came out back in 2004, including me. What did I know about not seeing my family for an extended period of time, other than those three days when they sent the advanced kids to science camp where no one pooped the entire time? Absolutely nothing. When you’re young you fail to understand that everyone hits the can for a number two. You also don’t realize that home isn’t where physical things are, it’s a mental state. Yes, your hometown will always remain the same, as will the place you grew up – but those are just facts about you. They don’t make you who you are. Home is an idea we build to make us feel, well, at home.
While Garden State has this mass appeal for those who love The Shins and indie movies that seem deep or whatever, it’s actual message will forever only be felt by those who have experienced life outside of one place or with more than one group of people because home is about comfort and being yourself – and you don’t know who you really are until you test the waters more than once.