Garden State



Smart drama for mature older teens and up.
  • Review Date: December 28, 2004
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know


Tense emotional scenes, reference to suicide.


Brief but explicit sex scenes and many sexual references.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent drug and alcohol use and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has extensive substance abuse. Characters smoke, drink, and take a lot of drugs. There are brief but explicit sex scenes and many sexual references, including a young man who is unhappy about his mother's affair with a younger man. Characters use very strong language and engage in risky and foolish behavior. There is a discussion of suicide and mental illness. One character is a thief. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of a person with a disability.

What's the story?

In GARDEN STATE, Andrew Largeman (director/writer Zach Braff) returns home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral. Andrew's psychiatrist father has prescribed powerful psychotropic medication for him since he was a child. But Largeman leaves all of his medications behind when he goes home. He has not really felt anything in a long time, and this may be the time to begin to try. Largeman is trying to make it as an actor in Los Angeles. He had a prominent role, but still supports himself as a waiter. In New Jersey, he catches up with high school friends including gravedigger Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), along with a cop, and the investor of "noiseless Velcro," who has tons of money but is just as lost as the others. Waiting to see a doctor about his headaches, Largeman meets Sam (Natalie Portman), who manages to give the typical "quirky romantic interest who shows up to give the lead a reason to want and hope for more out of life" role a genuine, effervescent, and endearing -- well, quirkiness.

Is it any good?


Going home again helps Largeman understand who he is and who he wants to be. What is just as enriching is seeing how this movie is helping writer/director/star Braff learn who he is and wants to be. While there are some clumsy detours, Garden State is filled with outstanding performances and moments of great authenticity, sensitivity, and heart. A hungover breakfast with Mark, his mother (Jean Smart), and a young man in a suit of armor is a small masterpiece of acting. And a scene near the end in an ark-like structure at the bottom of a canyon is deliriously but matter-of-factly audacious.

Braff's control of tone, mastery of image and feel for creating moments of moments of great sweetness and insight, and his willingness to hold back and not tell us everything about his characters to make them feel like they exist beyond what we see on screen are the qualities of a great film-maker. He makes us want to follow Largeman's journey as a man and continue with him on his own journey as a film-maker.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it was so difficult for Largeman to talk to his father. Why was it important to the story that his father is a psychiatrist?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 30, 2004
DVD release date:December 28, 2004
Cast:Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Zach Braff
Director:Zach Braff
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, drug use and a scene of sexuality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byHonestreviewer October 22, 2010

Good movie

Good movie, i'm not normally into this kind of genre, but it's actually good. Great soundtrack as well. There's a brief scene where they're in a back room of some building and there's multiple sexual things going on. Luckily it doesn't last long. Lots of drug use portrayed and lots of swearing. Don't let these things turn you off though. It's a great movie
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008


An amazing film, but it really earns its R-rating, I had to skip two or three scenes throughout.
Teen, 14 years old Written bymiranda1993 April 9, 2008


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