There are a ton of movies out there that try to inspire us all to be better people. Rudy, Lean on Me, Robocop--these films' powerful themes can transcend all boundaries.
But a powerful theme can be a dangerous thing in the hands of the wrong filmmaker. What if your "powerful theme" is "don't take those pills the doctor gave you!" or "don't be afraid of death, you're invincible?"
Don't think anybody would make a movie with such a moronically dangerous message? Wanna bet?
In a movie appropriately named after the most depressing state in the union, Zach Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a young man who has been on antidepressants ever since paralyzing the shit out of his mom by pushing her over a dishwasher when he was a kid.
Through a series of quirky--and therefore artsy--events, Largeman decides that the best way to deal with his issues is to stop taking his medicine and experience life to the fullest. This allows him to patch things up with his estranged dad and bang Natalie Portman to an indie rock soundtrack.
"I don't know about you, but this funeral is getting me totally fucking hot."
There is no medication better than the beauty of life! And also sex with Natalie Portman!
There is absolutely no question that someone in the audience for this movie was on medication and didn't need to be. It happens. All drugs have side effects, they can be unpleasant and some people are better off without them.
What is far more likely, however, is that the people taking the drugs really need to keep freaking taking them. This is not opinion here, this is medical fact: the drug Zach Braff was quitting was lithium and study after study shows that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder (the thing they prescribe lithium for) are 10 fucking times more likely to commit suicide if they don't take it or go off of it.
How's that for a side effect?
"I'm really glad we met. Cool with you if I drive this baby straight into the ocean?"
Now we're sure if the movie Garden State was somehow sentient and here to defend itself, it would say, "But the film deals with that issue! After all, in the movie, Zach Braff was improperly diagnosed by his dad, Bilbo Baggins. So surely you, Guy on Lithium Watching This Movie, aren't supposed to apply his situation to your own!"
Sure, but this is then followed by 90 minutes of Mr. Braff saying things like "the drugs left me fucking numb!" and "we should allow ourselves to be whatever we are!" Oh, and in the film the doctor prescribing the drugs was wrong and prescribed the drugs due to malicious ulterior motives (the big emotional breakthrough is when Braff "forgives" his doctor/father for prescribing them).
And don't forget that the patient's new, drug-free awesomeness is rewarded with Natalie Portman sex.
"You'll have to choose: Me, or that useless Asthma Inhaler."
Of course, it's just a movie. You wouldn't actually listen to it and take its message to heart unless, you know, you had some kind of mental illness or something.
In one of his many attempts at drama after discovering he was no longer funny, Robin Williams portrays the character of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, a radical, free-spirited "hilarious" "medical" "professional" who sets up a free clinic in the woods where patients can cure their bodies and spirits thanks to the power or caring.
By never conforming to the stiff rules of practical medicine, Patch shows us that humor and a positive attitude are the best medicines of all.
Touch a person's soul and you'll cure all their ailments!
In the immortal words of Dr. Gregory House, "What would you prefer--a doctor who holds your hand while you die or who ignores you while you get better?" As hard as it is to accept, some maladies just cannot be cured with the power of puppy dog smiles and unicorn farts. We typically refer to these ailments as "every fucking disease on the planet."
"But what if we smiled at them REALLY hard?"
We're not exaggerating, by the way. The movie seems to show Patch curing a mentally ill patient purely with the power of improvisational comedy. From that point on, he dedicates himself to showing those stodgy, bitter regular doctors that laughter is the best medicine.
Of course the evil, humorless medical establishment will have none of it; they try to kick him out of medical school twice, only letting him back in after he gives a passionate speech on the true value of comedy pills... and hearing from a group of bald cancer patients Patch "cured" with the power of his awesome, tumor-shrinking jokes.
Now, hopefully we don't need to point out that Mork from Ork wearing a goddamn clown nose will never be a good substitute for a syringe full of penicillin. But this movie's bigger dick move is really the way it vilifies all of those mean doctors who seek to cure only with that worthless old medicine bullshit.
"Well, I may not be able to prescribe laughter, but I did just save your fucking life."
We suppose we should point out that the movie is based on a real guy, who in the real world runs the Gesundheit! Institute. The good news is, they don't demand payment. The bad news is they're treating with "alternative" therapies like homeopathy which, in every single study ever done on the subject, ever, has been shown to be even worse at curing disease than laughter.