Movie beat: Geoff ‘Hollywood’ Bokuniewicz and ‘Garden State’


So, Zach Braff is trying to make a sequel to “Garden State.” If J.J. Abrams taking over the “Star Wars” reins from George Lucas was the early highlight of 2013, then this is undoubtedly the worst.

You see, I hated “Garden State.” Try as I might to match the excellence of the recently-passed Roger Ebert, I am unfortunately not in the same vitriol-spewing class as the giant of film reviews, so I’ll begin by quoting him here. He’s talking about the similarly awful movie “North,” but imagine I’m saying this about “Garden State”:

“I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”

That would seem to sum it up, but I can’t let it go just there, so here’s some more adjectives that describe it: awful, bad, ugly, cliche, tonedeaf and dumb. It’s so in love with its own self-consciousness and reverence to actual good movies that it ends up being “Sleepless in Seattle” made for hipsters. It’s exactly like any other romantic comedy, except the writer/director/actor thinks he’s smarter than he is.

It’s part of an unfortunate genre of movies that contain what A.V. Club reviewer Nathan Rubin calls the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”

Filmmakers of the last ten years have tripped over themselves trying to write romantic comedies in which one of these girls appears. They usually show up to either save the too-smart central character from either a lifetime of crippling solitude or to teach him how to love and forget or some other nonsense.

My problem with it is that it’s blatant Mary Sue-ism, and it makes for awful characters and awful movies. A Mary Sue is a literary term for a character that is a stand-in for the author. The writers and directors of modern romantic comedies are basically writing fantasy films for themselves, and that’s the main issue with “Garden State.” It promotes an unrealistic idea of love where one girl will come in, save the day, and sacrifice everything just to make the whiny emo-kid happy.

That’s a bad message to send, especially to emo-dudes, and it’s one that “Garden State” sent. It tried to emulate the post-college ennui communicated in “The Graduate” and somehow ended up being one of the most conventionally bad movies that I’ve ever seen, even worse than “About Schmidt.”

And now he’s trying to do a sequel by soliciting donations over Kickstarter. Thankfully, he’s not trying to do another romantic comedy, but the plot sounds almost as bad. It’s apparently going to be about “a struggling actor, father and husband, who, at 35, is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life.”

Ignoring the two major grammatical errors in that sentence from someone who calls himself a writer, I’m going to say that it already sounds awful.

By the time you read this article, the Kickstarter will probably have reached its goal, so this thing is going to be a reality. In a weird way, I feel like I should thank him.

I’m going to see his second movie with open eyes, as any reviewer should, but his continued success also means I’ll have an easy deadline to meet. Bad reviews always come easier than good reviews.

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