written and directed by Zach Braff
starring Zach Braff, Natalie Portman and Ian Holm
review by Stephen Notley
First and most basic rule of screenwriting: Movies based around dazed, medicated, aimless main characters that just wander around are guaranteed to suck.
Revision to above rule: Unless that movie is
The medicated main character in question is
"Large", played by Zach Braff, who also had the audacity to write and
Maybe it's Braff's eye for the almost absurd, the shirt he's forced to try on that disappears him into the wallpaper, or sensor-operated fawcets snapping on and off in sequence as he walks past, or the wooden spiral staircase he leans against as he barely talks with his father and psychiatrist Ian Holm, or the fawn-grabbed-by-alligator seen on a TV. Every new thing he shows us isunexpected, interesting, carries us along --and this is all before we get to meet Natalie Portman.
And then --we get to meet Natalie Portman! There she is, creeping in from the edge of our peripheral vision, curled up in a chair with her big headphones in the hospital waiting room as Large takes a seat. Her name is Sam, and she's magic. I'm not talking about made-up casting-spells ogres-n-vampires bullshit magic, either. I'm talking about *real* magic, the magic of a person like her taking an interest, looking, smiling, wanting to talk, the kind of magic that changes the universe. And Portman is so good, shrugging off the heavy robes and deadening air of Padme from the Star Wars prequels and recalling the old-soul 13-year-old from Beautiful Girls, now grown into a beautifully awkward young woman. And she has her crazy dogs and hamsterfilled home and little lies and incongruous brother and wee pet cemetary with the oddsweetest hamster eulogy ever.
And so Large hangs out, bathed in the
Natalie Portman glow,
going through some of the stuff you go through when your mom dies,
with old buddies, reviewing old events, spending all night with a cute
one end of a pool, true stuff, interesting stuff, stuff about living,
especially about living in a dulled state, cut off from high or low
seeking a way out from the deadness, learning to notice all the
to see and say.