Today is Valentine's Day. There are plenty of movies to watch that explore the complexities of the relationships between men and women. Since New Jersey's political and weather misfortunes have been in the news of late, consider a film set in the beleaguered state. "Garden State," which came out in 2004, offers characters whose difficult personal histories complicate their chances of happiness.
In "Garden State," Andrew Largeman (played by Zach Braff) is a struggling actor who works at a low-level restaurant job in Los Angeles. For most of his life, Andrew has been on a lot of mental health-related medications. Unexpectedly, he receives a phone call from his estranged father (played by Ian Holm), who tells him that his mother has died. Andrew flies to his home state, New Jersey, for the funeral services. There, he reconnects with several of his old friends, such as Mark (played by Peter Sarsgaard). Also, he meets Samantha (played by Natalie Portman), a slightly odd young woman who has a habit of lying. They fall for each other.
"Garden State" is written and directed by Braff. He does an effective job of balancing the serious and humorous elements of the film.
Also, he does great work as an actor. He shows that Andrew is someone who wants to come to terms with his imperfect family and the pain they have inflicted upon one another. Natalie Portman is also excellent. She makes Samantha both weird and likeable. Although she sometimes lies, she feels bad about it and admits when she does. Another strong performance is by Peter Sarsgaard as Mark, a pot-smoking gravedigger.
"Garden State" is a great choice to watch on Valentine's Day. It is a romantic comedy with dark undertones.