I still remember the first time I ever saw Garden State. It was one of the most mesmerizing times – each scene making my soul wonder where this movie had been my entire life. Zach Braff produced, directed, acted and handpicked the soundtrack for this film. Basically, the guy knows what he’s doing. He received a Grammy award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album, which helps solidify the fact that the music used throughout this film is of epic proportion and well worth your time.
One of the best scenes of the movie is found in the beginning when Sam (Natalie Portman) and Andrew (Zach Braff) first encounter each other in a waiting room. It’s clear from how they act that they’re both very unconventional people. Sam’s proclamation, “You gotta hear this one song. It’ll change your life, I swear” is so ingeniously identifiable. All music lovers know, that one of the most rewarding things in life is to introduce others to your own favorite music, in hopes that it will touch them in the same way and become a part of their life as well. As Andrew is listening to Sam’s headphones, The Shins music fills the air with a carefree innocence that greatly resembles the good nature of Sam herself. It’s almost as if Andrew realizes this connection because his face stares somewhat in amazement at her, while she is smiling back at him, eager to read his reaction of the song. Without the song, this scene would have never been able to encapsulate the true essence of not only these characters but also the movie as a whole.
“Music can also provide ironic contrast. The predominant mood of a scene can be neutralized or even reversed with contrasting music” (Understanding Movies 216). This exact circumstance is found in one of the most memorable scenes, referred to as, ‘that party scene in Garden State’ by many who love the film. It’s apparent on Andrew’s face that he is quite unsure of what to expect with the people he is surrounded by and the ‘party favor activities’ they have began to partake in. As you see his night taking off, the song “In The Waiting Line” consumes the speakers and seems to magically numb the series of scandalously illegal activity that is going on. The compelling music entrances you with its rhythm and lyrics, “Do you believe in what you see, motionless wheel, nothing is real.” These words beautifully annotate Andrew’s emotions of disbelief and awe as he remains in the same spot on the couch the entire night. In most movies, a party scene is accompanied with rap or electronic raging music but Garden State refuses to do what is normal and instead creates a fascinatingly juxtaposed scene.
Famous composer Gabriel Yared says it best when asked about how he creates his masterpieces, “When I write music for a film, I try to connect with its spirit rather than working shot by shot” (Music and Mood article). Garden State accomplished Yared’s wise words by making the audience fall in love with the characters and then elevating that love with the addition of a perfectly constructed soundtrack. During this movie, you’ll notice your pathos being taken to another level that you never imagined impossible – all due to the music illustrating layers of the characters that words could not.