“Wish I Was Here” (2014)
We meet Aidan (Zach Braff) an unemployed actor, husband and father to two kids, as he is fantasying about being a spaceman running from a mysterious man clad in all black. Aidan is brought back to reality by his young son who wants to know the iPad password at the breakfast table. Aidan is having sort of a mid-life crisis at age 35. He hasn’t had an acting job for a while, he learns that his father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) has not paid for his kid’s private school tuition (something that his father had agreed to) and his house is badly in need of repair. He is married to Sarah (Kate Hudson), a loving woman who has supported her husband’s dream of being an actor. They have two children, Grace (Joey King), who is immersed into her Jewish heritage and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon), who would rather play video games than pay attention to anything else. Aidan soon learns the reason that his father hasn’t paid the school is that he has cancer and is trying a costly experimental drug treatment. Sarah and Aidan decide that the only thing they can do is homeschool the kids. This means that Aidan will have to put his acting aspirations on hold.
Braff, who had both box office and critical success with his 2004 film, “Garden State,” doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations with this film. The movie, while at times both funny and moving, goes for the easy laugh or the cliché plot point too many times. It’s almost as if this film is a pilot for a network sitcom, especially when Braff’s character comes back with a witty retort so often that you keep waiting for a laugh track. There were a number of things that did work in this film. The interaction between Aidan and his kids is fun to watch. There is a nice rapport between them that feels very natural and loving. Also, I liked the fact that Hudson’s character, Sarah stands by and supports her husband’s quest to become a full-time actor. Sarah guides him to make life changing decisions, but she doesn’t force anything and or overly criticize him.
This film does have some nice, touching moments, most of which occur when the family is trying to connect with each other. There is a wonderful scene near the end of the film where Sarah delivers a moving speech to her father-in-law. Another is where Sarah and Aidan have gone out on a date night to discuss their future. It’s a perfectly shot scene with two people in love trying to reconnect under the moonlight on the beach. Unfortunately, those moments are cheapened by the attempt at the easy joke, such as Sarah being sexually harassed by a cubicle-mate. The amount of sexual harassment that Sarah undergoes would never be as lightly handled in life as it is in the movie. It just wouldn’t happen in today’s corporate world, and it weakens the script, which is written by Zach Braff and his brother Adam.
As with “Garden State,” music is incredibly important in this film and features songs from Coldplay, Cat Power and Bon Iver. Unfortunately, Braff goes to the well too many times, as when he takes his kids to an auto dealership just so they can ride in an expensive convertible on a test drive. Instead of adding to the plot, it just becomes an oddly placed “music video” segment inside the movie. The scene also seems to be a little forced, as to just to give extra spice to the Kickstarter campaign by using Donald Faison cameo as an extra incentive to back the film.
Braff’s performance, while being in almost every scene in the film, doesn’t stand out from the rest of the cast. He is just playing a version of himself, though one that isn’t successful as the “Zach Braff actor” in real life. Josh Gad, playing Braff’s slacker brother Noah, sleepwalks through most of his performance, only coming to life when he has a scene with a neighbor (Ashley Greene) who makes “furry” costumes for a living. Two performances do stand out in the film. Kate Hudson does a wonderful job as the sane person in the marriage. Hudson seems to glow on screen and she has some nice chemistry with Braff, making their conversations real and believable. Joey King as the older daughter, Grace, masterfully portrays the all too serious girl who seems to have a much better understanding on how people relate to each other than her father does. King portrays Grace as a girl who at times seems to be the normal 6th-grade girl who has crushes on boys and can’t stand her little brother. But King also lets Grace have a mature side who is smarter than the adults that are supposed to be teaching her.
“Wish I Was Here” isn’t a bad film, in fact, overall it’s an enjoyable film with some truly moving moments. The film just goes for the easy joke or the predictable scene too many times. It’s something that Braff’s “Garden State,” a film that I enjoy more and more with each viewing, never did. I do want to see Braff try again. Just do a few more re-writes till you start up that next Kickstarter campaign Mr. Braff. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Wish I Was Here” is currently playing at UA Tara Cinemas 4.