Garden State/Maria Full of Grace

This week I seen these two movies this week and they were kind of similar so I'm gonna try and fancy up a double review: 

(Maybe don't read on if you know nothing about either movie and plan to maybe see em. They're best both seen cold me thinks.)

Anyway, here's how these two flicks are similar:

Garden State was about this dude from LA who travels New Jersey with a body full of drugs and he has this life awakening experience. Maria Full of Grace is about this chick from Columbia who travels to New Jersey with a body full of drugs and she has this life awakening experience. Both movies are written and directed by first timers. Both are real good human stories. ok?

Let's start with Garden State. It's definitely a movie worth seeing. Zack Brank wrote and directed this flick and I dug it in alot of ways. It's about this dude who's aimless and lost in life who heads home from LA for his mother's funeral and is surrounded by a swirl of strangeness. He barely feels any of it at first cause he's all numbed out on lithium and stuff. He's got his weird grave digger highschool friends. He's got his super millionaire friend who drives around his house in a golf cart. He's got his wacky love interest who has a wacky family life but she's not mental only quirky and happens to look just like Natalie Portman. Nice catch. He bumbles through his return home, ties up loose ends inside and out and tries to rise above the clouds and to find his life and feel. Blah blah it all looked good but I didn't quite yank me with the emotional pull I was expecting.

Garden State has a nice pace and gives enough curves to kept me on my toes. It was a different slice of life thang. But I knew where it was all going a little too early on. No real threat. It was an exercise in offbeat process and we were along for the ride. But I liked the ride. When push came to shove it was like floating down stream in a raft with no oars. I put my arms behind my back and relaxed and took it all in. I dragged one hand in the water and it felt crisp and good. But the scenery eventually looked a little familiar and I got hungry. I noticed that pieces of other movies lined the banks. Was that a piece of the Graduate? Was that the Breakfast Club lurking back there? Behind the tree? Toward the end I checked my waterproof watch and wondered.... When's lunch anyway?


Maria Full of Grace hit me harder than Garden State and she had an advantage. It involved the body as well as the mind. (Warning: This is a subtitled movie so the movie involves more work than laying there and floating down stream. You probably won't like it if you can't read english or speak spanish.) This slice of life flick really did come through where it mattered. It had a hold on me pretty much the whole time. Here's this chick in middle of nowhere Columbia who is works in place where she strips thorns off flowers and is denied bathroom breaks. She's poor. She's got a lame boyfriend. She's preggers. She's got nowhere to go. She doesn't have a dime to make any sort of change. It's a sucky place to live. The type of town where you can see your life 25 years down the line way to clearly and it's not that hot of a lifestyle. So she decides to become a cocaine mule to make some cash and do something.

The hardest part of this movie is watching what these mules need to go through. It's not eating a couple balloons of coke and you go to NJ and get em out of you. We're talking you eat 50, 60, 70 of these things. The mules (just the name alone 'mules'. uch)  practice by swallowing big purple grapes whole. Gulp gulp gulp. Then getting em out is no joy either. Plus if just one of em breaks while inside you're totally done for. The feeling of being used runs so amazingly deep that I felt physical revulsion. Cokeheads should take note. But the good thing about this movie is how genuinely human and hopeful it is. Maria comes across as real.  I could see her separation from herself just to get through the process and her hoping she'll be able to link up with herself on the other side. The small town, the travel, and the destination all worked for me. The flaws were easily dismissed. I was sort of stunned by this film.


Ok so both of those reviews I just wrote kind of sucked. Maybe this double thing didn't work out so great. But here's the deal. See one of these two movies. If you want more of an emotionally fun time see Zank's movie. If you want more of an emotional gutpunch. See Maria. Ok? that's that with that.

Two Good Things About Garden State

- Natalie Portman is so cute it makes you want to run out and get one of your own.
- I liked the idea of floating through your own world as other worlds float around you.

Two Bad Things About Garden State

- The whole thing came off a bit too cool for schooly all loaded up with semi-obvious hipster music to boot.
- It seemed to sort of plead for my love and approval.

Two Good Things About Maria Full of Grace

- There is a greatness to this movie.
- There were moments of genuine tension and nausea to the point where I actually gripped the armchair.

Two Bad Things About Maria Full of Grace

- Sometimes it got jumpy and there were some lapses of logic.
- It lacked a sprinkling of humor.

So which one should you see? It's hard to say. It's really a personal preference. Both are American movies in different ways. I'm positive both are way better than 90% of the bigger stuff out there. But whatever, if you find yourself heading to see Little Black Book (puke) or AvP (double puke) you might wanna check yourself and see something that's truly good and different. Because hey, you might step out of the theater and get mowed down by a runaway speeding steamroller. And as both Zeck and Maria pummeled me with.... Appreciate life.