Garden State


The first 25 minutes of Garden State play like an assembly-line US indie charmer, with writer/ director/star Zach Braff as a melancholic TV actor returning home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral. But when you're about to roll your eyes at yet another quirk-bomb moment, Natalie Portman shows up to defibrillate Garden State into real, pulsing life - - just like she does to Braff's over-medicated hero. Her role, as a sweet, sexy compulsive liar, is straight out of the first-time screenwriter's fantasy manual, but Portman still delivers an expressive, affecting turn. The rest of the cast, including Peter Sarsgaard as Braff's stoner friend, also help the Scrubs star on his way to a smart, unconventional and - - say it - charming debut.

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