Gardener of Eden
Gardener of Eden is a darkly comic update of Taxi Driver. If that
sounds both odd and ambitious, you're readin' it right, bro.
Adam is a 25-ish slacker whose posse has drifted into dead-end lives
since high school. His friends just turned their part-time high school
jobs into full-time employment, but Adam took a more complicated route to
his deli counter job. He got accepted into a good college, then got kicked
out for bringing prostitutes into his dorm room. He then went back to his
small town in Jersey and joined his friends in the blue collar world.
Things started going badly for him. On a single day, he lost his job,
he watched a sweet old woman die, and his parents kicked him out of the
house. He snapped. He got shit-faced and filled with rage, then became
determined to beat the hell out of the next man he met. He did just that,
and that scene ended with the police pulling him off the battered victim.
Then a miracle happened. Instead of going to jail as a menace to the
community, he was hailed as a hero. The man he assaulted was a wanted
rapist, and Adam attacked him just minutes after his latest rape. Adam was
given plaques and reward money. His parents took him back in. Everyone in
town wanted to shake his hand. The people of his small town suddenly
started treating him like a combination of Brad Pitt and Jesus.
All of this went to his head, and interacted with some confused notions
which had already been simmering in there for a while, with the
result being that he now fancies himself a comic book hero, a super
vigilante who has been chosen by destiny to clean the scum off the
streets. He prepares himself for the role, ala Travis Bickle, with
fighting lessons and firearms and long rigorous workouts. When he
considers himself ready, he starts wandering through his own town in
search of crime, but finds little, and manages to accomplish nothing
beyond making the police aware that he might be a dangerous nuisance.
Frustrated to be a super hero in a town which doesn't need one, he starts
heading into the big city every night, wandering through the worst
neighborhoods of New York in search of criminals to apprehend.
He gets into some trouble and when it becomes too dangerous for him to
return to New York, our super hero turns his focus back to his little town
and the only local character worthy of being his nemesis: a drug dealer so
small-time that he uses his bicycle to deliver the merchandise. The guy is
not exactly Doctor Doom, but a super hero needs a super villain and
Schwinn-boy is the only available candidate.
There are about five scenes and/or plot elements which are direct
references to Taxi Driver, but that doesn't really matter much, because
Gardener of Eden is not a rip-off, but an homage, with a completely
different attitude and a unique world of its own. The film can turn
deadly serious at times, and the plot encompasses some dark themes like
the impact of rape on the victim, but mostly it is a comic riff on the
vigilante concept. The tone does get darker and darker as the film
progresses, but it never loses sight of the fact that its main character
is not an animal or a moron, but was and is essentially a nice,
intelligent, suburban type of kid with flights of fancy that just happen
to land in crazytown. The film remains lighter than Taxi Driver because
Adam is a much more likeable and light-hearted fellow than Travis Bickle.
The film has some problems in the middle. A couple of ideas are raised
and dropped. A couple of scenes seem to have been isolated from earlier or
later scenes which were simply not there, probably lost in the editing
process. At one point, I even felt that some of the scenes might have been
shown in the wrong order. Fortunately, those things don't matter much in
the big picture. The first thirty minutes of the film are entertaining and
pretty damned funny, and I got hooked immediately on the storyline and the
characters, so I was willing to ride through the rough spots later. And
there's more to like. The bike-riding pusher was played with cynical elan
by scene-stealing Giovanni Ribisi, and the rivalry between the petty drug
dealer and the vigilante was handled with surprising understatement. The film
showed remarkably effective restraint in portraying how they settled their
differences (or failed to). On balance, I was quite satisfied with the
experience until about five minutes before the credits, when the plot
suddenly devolved into an unsatisfying, unexpected and somewhat confusing
ending. I guess the creators just weren't sure how to get out of the
storyline, because the film doesn't really end at all. Although there is a
major (and somewhat baffling) dramatic development about two minutes
before the closing credits, the events after that make the film seem to be
the pilot for a TV series which will feature the continuing adventures of
The producer and director of this film may surprise you. The producer
is about as heavy as heavyweights come these days - superstar Leo DiCaprio.
The director is DiCaprio's friend Kevin Connelly, better known as "E" on
Entourage. (The guy who plays Turtle on Entourage is in the cast of
Gardener of Eden.)
It doesn't look like this film is going anywhere, since it debuted at
Tribeca in the Spring of 2007 and has since disappeared for a year and a
half, but Connelly did a solid job. His talent is unrefined at this point,
but it's definitely there. The film has a lot of great moments. Connelly
has a great eye and ear, and may just turn out to be a helluva director.
The nudity is brief, but not bad at all. Sorry, I could not identify
these women from the