Awakening, love, carpe diem, and insanely quirky characters iced with a little emo all packed into one newspaper wrapped birthday present like the pet hamster you gave your sister for her birthday, but forgot to punch holes in the box. The first time I watched this film I was, as Natalie Portman's character "Sam" puts it, "really in it". Although not exactly on the same level this film has a spirit similar to that of the 1967 film "The Graduate", and Hal Ashbey's "Harold and Maude".
Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) is a struggling Actor/Waiter with one semi-famous film under his belt having played "the retarded quarterback".
Sam: Are you really retarded?
Andrew Largeman: No.
Sam: Ooh, great job man! I really thought you were retarded. I mean, you're better than that Corky kid and he's actually retarded. If there was a retarded Oscar you would win, hands down, kick his ass!
Sam: Wow! I cannot believe you're not retarded!
Largeman is coming home for his mother's funeral where he is forced to interact with some of his old high school buddies, other random people who have heard of his semi-fame, and his father. Before the trip Andrew decides to call it quits on the anti-depressants, Lithium, and mood stabalizers that his psychiatrist/father prescribed for him so many years ago. As Largeman wakes up from the 20 year sleep he's been in, he walks through a variety of trance-like, drug induced experiences, and meets knights, the bow-hunting inventor of "silent Velcro", Noah and his ark in the bottom of a canyon, his old friends who are now gravediggers/graverobbers, and a girl named Sam. Braff's character learns to "feel again" as he finally experiences love, anger, forgiveness, loneliness, and passion.
I loved the dialogue in this film.
Karl Benson: Hey man, I thought you killed yourself.
Andrew Largeman: What?
Karl Benson: I thought you killed yourself. That wasn't you?
Andrew Largeman: No, no, tha-that wasn't me.
This is one of the few films that I wanted to go and watch all the behind the scenes interviews immediately after finishing the first viewing which is where I learned that many of the mini-stories and characters were inspired by real life stories Braff had either experienced or heard from his friends. This film reminds me of so many stories from my high-school days and especially those awkward feelings you have when you bump into the once "star of the soccer team" who is now a grocer in your old home town trying to sell you on his latest pyramid-scheme while you're in town for the holidays.
Without a doubt my favorite part of the film is its soundtrack. Much like Braff's comedy on NBC Scrubs all the music was hand-picked by Braff. He received a Grammy in 2005 for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture. It's made up of tracks from excellent bands including The Shins, Simon and Garfunkel, Coldplay, and Colin Hay. The soundtrack is one of the most frequently played albums on my ipod. Colin Hay's "I just don't think I'll ever get over you" is possibly one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time. The eclectic grooves and blends of reflective acoustic jams mix together seamlessly in a way uncommon to this genre of music. Typically I can only handle so much emo before I e-blow, but I can listen to this soundtrack for hours.
There are sections that feel a little forced, and overly sappy-sad, and characters that are occasionally unconvincing. But for the most part I think this film is an incredible selection of memorable moments and characters backed by a killer soundtrack disagreeing with their fathers, and digging up their mothers, exploring the "infinite abyss" and learning how to feel amidst shallow and numb friends.
"Are you the alligator?"
REVIEWED BY: Chris Flanigan and posted by the Shea Train