GARDEN STATE Teaser: There’s Beauty in the Breakdown

I’ve gone back to IFC’s list of 50 great trailers for today’s post. Here’s what critic Brandon Kim says about the 1:15 teaser for Garden State, which it ranks #14:

“Garden State” never managed the darkness and gravity that could have made it as memorable as “The Graduate,” a film with which writer/director/star Zach Braff would no doubt like his to be associated. But the Frou Frou-scored teaser encapsulates all of that wonderful promise of generation-summing angst, and without a word of dialog. The airplane scene intro, the funeral, the daisy chain of children crossing the street — the moody, wistful collage of images and the crowded nightmare of the modern medicated world are a jumble around Braff’s Andrew Largeman, who’s too numbed to notice. The secret to the teaser’s hypnotic quality is that it’s cut particularly well to the song’s beats, with gestures and edits aligning with rhythms and Imogen Heap’s drawn-out note before the chorus perfectly paired with that primal scream pullback over the rainy quarry.”

As Kim points out, the emotional message of the film is conveyed by the music cue, “Let Go,” (vocals by Imogen Heap), with a lyric “there’s beauty in the breakdown,” that would appear to express Braff’s character’s bittersweet assessment of his existence. (It also offers a crack branding slogan for the State of New Jersey.)

As for bringing in the audiences, to scenes of Braff and his A-list co-stars, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and Ian Holm emoting winningly amidst suburban anomie, the teaser adds two florid critical reactions: “Writer-director Zach Braff has a genuine filmmaker’s eye and is loaded with talent,” from David Ansen of Newsweek; and “Beautiful and funny…intimate and real,” from Erik Childress at Efilmcritic.com.

Lest a viewer be alienated by the depressive tenor of the visuals and the music cue or alarmed at the opening shot of the interior of a plane with emergency oxygen deployed and the passengers panicked, the second to last shot shows Portman and Braff embracing in an empty baggage claim area, a promise that the film is not a tragedy and that love and life are, at least temporarily, triumphant.

There is no copy and no voice over, apart from Ms. Heap, but the generic markers of “coming of age” story are all over it, whether the images of Braff’s mournful mug, isolated and still in the midst of society and activity. The cue, again, does yeoman’s work here. (Confession: I just added it to my Spotify playlist and intend to create a Imogen Heap channel on Pandora.)

Lastly, and on a related note, I’ve begun working full time for a small boutique movie marketing company, SizzlePitch, which I’ve mentioned before in earlier blog posts. It’s a welcome new professional challenge, given that I’m not only the in-house writer, but part of the creative marketing team that decides on direction and emphasis for the projects that come to us. To date, I’ve been maintaining my twice a week posting regimen, but I may back off to once a week, or exert myself to write less each time. Time will tell. More about SizzlePitch, as our business develops and my insight grows.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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