Garden State finally hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray with a solid, at times very good, but not quite exceptional video presentation in 1080p High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Honestly, the film has never looked perfect – it was shot for about $3 Million, and has always looked a little soft, a far cry from the premium big-budget releases even at the time, let along now. With that in mind, this is a respectful, decent effort that does not eradicate all of the niggling aspects, but still presents us with a quantifiable HD upgrade.
Detail is good throughout, particularly noticeable on the longer shots – the at times stunning cinematography beautifully rendered here – and not faltering on the close-ups, although some of those middle-ground shots do have a little haloing to them, a hint of edge enhancement that you would have preferred not to have been there at all. DNR is not really an issue – as stated the film is inherently softer than you would expect – and there are no other overt digital defects; the movie boasting a nice warm layer of filmic grain that only occasionally feels like it’s getting slightly out of hand. The colour scheme is at times too restrained, but, again, I think this was a stylistic choice as I’ve never seen Garden State look vibrant and vivid – it’s rich full of autumnal browns and moody blues, often sombre tones to reflect the emotional content. Black levels are reasonably strong and round out a decent but far from demo quality presentation.
On the aural front we get a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track which is slightly more impressive, but still not demo quality, restrained by the limited material on offer, but saved by the stunning soundtrack that punctuates the drama with expertly-chosen songs. Dialogue comes across crisply and clearly, largely from across the frontal array. Effects are never of the bombastic variety – it’s just not that kind of film – and, whilst it would have been nice if the ambience was slightly more finely observed, there are some subtle nuances and warm atmospherics to bring the quieter moments to life. Still, nothing really competes with the soundtrack, which often makes several of the pivotal sequences into arguably the greatest montages committed to film, rousing, uplifting, striking, touching and emotionally resonant, it’s a perfect accompaniment for the narrative and each and every song comes across wonderfully here, remaining the absolute highlight of the presentation.
Most of the extra features – with the recent retrospective being one noteworthy exception – were present on even the first DVD release several years ago, but it’s nice to see them all included here.
Audio Commentary with stars Zach Braff and Natalie Portman headlines the piece and the two are on loveable form, with Braff relating endless anecdotes about the production as well as discussing the inspiration behind many of the key moments, and the lovely Portman prompting him at every turn, with a few sweet moments that further remind us of the chemistry between the two of them. Fast-paced, energetic and thoroughly engaging, this is one of the better commentaries that I have come across.
Audio Commentary with writer/director Zach Braff, Director of Photography Lawrence Sher, Editor Myron Kerstein and Production Designer Judy Becker allows us much more background information into the production. Although far from as warm as the lead cast commentary, it is technically proficient, and relates a lot of trivia about the filming, making it a solid second listen for those interested in the piece.
Making Of allows us a satisfying 25-minute look behind the scenes, taking us on a voyage with the cast and crew – who provide some nice interview snippets – and offering up a hint of insight into the production whilst covering all of the standard making-of elements.
In the Mind of Zach Braff appears to be a new Featurette, running at 25 minutes and acting as some kind of nice retrospective, supported by a running main interview with Braff himself which runs across a whole host of behind the scenes and final film clips. We get plenty of information here, presented in a nice retrospective way – how they financed the movie, how he got Natalie Portman involved, the way the story shifted from self-discovery to first love, what the production was like, and some of the scenes that were cut – the most important of which is not even included in the Deleted Scenes. Braff is also quite honest about how he has never managed to make another movie like this, mainly because he was contractually obligated to stay on Scrubs for 8 seasons, and, after the commentary, this new Featurette is probably one of the biggest highlights of the disc, and is well worth checking out.
Deleted Scenes number 16 and total a whopping extra 40+ minutes of footage, all available with optional audio commentary from Braff. Fairly poor quality, there’s a great incomplete moment where Andrew is competing with a guy on a treadmill, a strange look at him waiting around for an audition, a funny extended scene with the wallpaper shirt, more from the coked-out cop who likes rap, a couple of other extended dialogue scenes which don’t add a great deal of noticeable merit, a tough extra confrontation moment with Ian Holm as the dad, and plenty of extra moments with the two leads. All in all, these are well worth sifting through, even if you can see why the majority of them were excised/trimmed for the final cut, as is backed up by Braff’s commentary.
Outtakes aren’t quite as funny as you would have hoped for, but there are a couple of nice moments, particularly involving the Klingon-speaking medieval knight.
The disc is rounded off by the original Trailer.
I can’t recommend Garden State enough. It will surprise you at every turn, making you at once laugh and cry; smile and reminiscence; hope and wonder – it’s insightful to the core, and will likely leave you – long after the credits have rolled – feeling like you’ve just watched the story of somebody’s life; the soundtrack to somebody’s life, affording you a great deal of perception into your own experiences and your own relationships. How often do you come across that kind of touching relevance in a movie these days, and a romantic comedy no less!?
This belated review looks at what is currently the only Blu-ray release available for the title, the UK Region B-locked Collector’s Edition, which sports solid video, slightly more impressive audio, and all of the extras ported over from the previous Special Edition DVD, along with one noteworthy retrospective featurette addition. Fans who are Region B-capable should pick this up immediately and if you somehow haven’t yet explored Garden State then I strongly recommend picking it up as a blind buy. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
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