It doesn’t happen very often, especially, I find, as I get older: you watch a movie and recognize that something in a scene is about to develop, something that touches not so much on your emotions, but on your experiences, a perfect mixture of things that have deep meaning to you that you’d never thought capable of converging before, but once they do, they not only make perfect sense, but you wonder how they never came together before now. You also recognize that there’s a director out there that’s experienced - maybe not in the same way as you - something similar.
It’s what keeps me going to the movies.
I experienced one of those rare moments last night watching Garden State (2004), a movie I had somehow always missed. This isn’t going to be a review of that film (which I liked, but didn’t love), but a celebration of one of those “moments” in film that seem to have been made only for you.
The scene in question occurs during the second half of the film. Briefly, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) has just come home to New Jersey to his mother’s funeral. He’s trying to work out several issues, but at one point, Andrew’s high school friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) persuades Andrew and his new friend Sam (Natalie Portman) to follow him to pick up something from a man living near a quarry in Newark. Something happens in this encounter that just slammed into me. Part of it is the music (Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” one of my favorite songs), part of it is the scenery, part of it is the staging, part of it is the revelation gained by Andrew and part of it is something I can’t quite describe. But in that moment, something came together for me, several points converging all at once to deliver something immensely personal and satisfying.
Now I don’t know this film well enough to know whether this is the movie’s most memorable scene, one that’s so famous it’s now become imitated to the point of cliché, or not. All I know is that it hit me like a hammer and I’ll never forget it. It might be great to revisit the scene (or maybe the whole movie) again, but it will never have quite that same impact.
But there it is. I think this is one of the reasons - maybe the most important reason - why we go to the movies.
How often does that happen to you in the movies? I’d love to hear your stories.