By Hemanth Kissoon
“A father gives his son a million dollars. ‘Here son, this is what I’ve worked my whole life for. Enjoy your life.’ The next day the son comes back and thanks him for the million dollars, and says ‘Dad, I want a robot side-kick’… Is that kid a dick?” Emma (Eve Myles)
“What the f*ck are you talking about?” Charlie (Zach Braff)
When I first saw the trailer for SCRUBS lead Zach Braff’s cinematic directorial debut, GARDEN STATE, I knew it could be something special. The composition and camerawork were stunning. I was not disappointed. It was a seriously confident debut. The story of twenty-something malaise was a bit affected though, and his acting purposefully hemmed in to represent emotional shutdown. I didn’t really buy his performance. Contrast his turn in SCRUBS, and that is a comedy tour de force. With his West End theatre debut, as both actor and writer, I was most definitely intrigued about what he would do.
Worryingly there is a similar opening to Cameron Crowe’s woeful ELIZABETHTOWN: a “comedy” suicide attempt. Braff’s Charlie is preparing to kill himself in a spacious beach house in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Emma bursts in and interrupts him, there, to attempt to rent the pad out. She is a whirling dervish, and hilariously played by Myles, stealing the play with the most striking performance, aided by the best lines. Emma is a lovely posh Brit, illegally in America with a penchant for recreational drugs. Charlie tries to get rid of her to no avail, as she stands her ground needing the job badly. It is unclear the reason behind Charlie’s misery, nor why his accidental saviour is without a visa in the USA. The duo is then joined by the island’s fireman, Myron (Paul Hilton), friends with Emma; and then a high-class escort, Kim (Susannah Fielding) hired by the owner of the house to cheer up Charlie (obviously neither realising the extent of his depression).
Much comedy misunderstanding and friction follow. There are then dark asides in the form of filmed flashbacks projected onto a dropped down screen. They are inventively portrayed. And the stage is used to the max, with great production design and the players choreographed so well to fill it. Braff goes angst again – trying to show he is more than just comedy gold, but again feels strained. He can do it, see THE LAST KISS. I don’t think Braff writes to his strengths. His script and the performances certainly entertain, though it is a little too forgettable.