A man trying to turn his fantasies into reality is forced to face he may be on the wrong path to happiness.
Review (with Spoilers)
It has been 10 years since Garden State made it seem Zach Braff would become one of the top indie filmmakers out there. However, with time all we saw from him was remakes of other movies, the end of Scrubs, and one or two blockbusters. But with Wish I Was Here there is this possibility of a comeback, and perhaps him taking back some of the thunder Josh Radnor snatched from him by being more consistent. At least, that was the hope.
Characters & Story
Aidan (Zach Braff) is similar to his character Andrew from Garden State. If only because both have father issues, are struggling actors, and seem to have some form of depression. But, the comparisons end there for Aidan isn’t on the cusp of adulthood but is what most would consider a man. Well, except for damn near every Jewish adult in the film. Especially his dad Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), who seemingly was never that kind of a father to Aidan, nor his brother Noah (Josh Gad). Which makes for most of the heart of the story, one dying bastard who, within the headlights of death, tries to reconcile with the boys who he pushed away.
Side stories include: Aidan’s kids Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) having to go to transfer from a Jewish school to public school; Noah prepping to go to comic-con, to impress neighbor Janine (Ashley Grenne) and avoid his father; Aidan going on auditions; and Aidan’s wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) dealing with not only being the main breadwinner in the home, but also Gabe who is cruel to not just her husband, but also her daughter as well in one scene. Also, she has to deal with an inappropriate co-worker.
One the things which kept me going through this two-hour film was that amongst the cluttered story there was heart. For whether it was the broken relationship between Gabe and his sons or Grace prepping herself for public school, while trying to maintain the knowledge and faith she gained through her Jewish school, multiple times you get the opportunity to feel emotionally involved. Though no greater moments come than when Aidan is interacting with Grace or his father Gabe. For with Grace you can see Braff and King really do have a connection in which she relies on him, and you can almost imagine yourself being the dad to a kid who looks up to you for answers, self-confidence, and relies on your words and actions to help them get through life. Then, when it comes to Gabe, you connect with Braff by watching him take the harsh criticisms of his father and, like Bill on Masters of Sex, just absorbing each hit and yet still finding himself in love with the bastard who tries to tear him down every chance he gets.
And, I must admit I also admired the approach the film took on religion. For with Grace’s faith being a big subject for her story, you can see why people find it important to instill religion within kids. If just because it gives them a sense of right and wrong, the idea that when things are going bad they are just being tested, and that ultimately things will be ok. For even if death is the next step, you know that someone is waiting for you once you adjust your eyes to the light.
When it comes to this film, I must admit there isn’t a consistent flow which takes you from beginning to end. There are constant road bumps which make the film feel bloated and in need of trimming. Like the whole situation with the kids needing to be taken out of school. That whole section of the story, and then Aidan trying to homeschool, could have been streamlined to me. Like, they could have made it where it was the end of the year and due to them not being able to pay tuition they are unsure if Grace would return in the fall; as opposed to wasting so much time establishing how much Aidan dislikes the rabbis, how in the Jewish faith he is seen as a failure, and then him trying to homeschool his kids.
Then, on top of that issue, I feel that the adults, and King, are all given more information than we really need for their backstories to be established. Like, the whole sexual harassment storyline with Sarah I felt was just something to make the character meatier than anything else; then with Noah, him trying to impress Janine also felt like something thrown in there so that the movie would be worth Gad’s time to commit to.
Overall: TV Viewing
Honestly, if I donated to the Kickstarter campaign I would be disappointed and a bit upset. For while you can see Braff tried to replicate what made Garden State so appealing, I do think he spread the story a bit too thin by trying to make it where all of Aidan’s family, except Tucker, was given a story which would allow them to seem three-dimensional. But with his decision came a lot of stories which felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of the movie, and it made the movie feel a bit longer than it should have been. Hence the TV Viewing label for while this is a movie you will connect with, it doesn’t do the best job of keeping you connected and interested in the story throughout the whole film.
“You know what is the problem with hiding in a fishbowl? Everyone can see you.”
— Wish I Was Here
“God can be where you want to be, don’t get caught in the semantics.”
— Wish I Was Here
“When things get tragic enough, things eventually circle back to comedy.”
— Wish I Was Here
Things To Note
Also, the soundtrack to this film is nowhere near the level of greatness the Garden State soundtrack was.
I recognize perhaps it is unfair to compare this to Garden State which came out 10 years ago, but considering all that Braff has probably experienced over 10 years, for him to basically rehash the lead character, and create only a few slight differences, I just feel is kind of lazy. Almost to the point I think this film should of gestated a bit longer before the Kickstarter and all that.