Wish I Was Here – Movie Review
Wish I Was Here – R
Release Date: Wed 13 Aug 2014
Wish I Was Here is director and co-writer Zach Braff’s second feature since 2004’s Garden State. The new film has been under a self-imposed microscope during production as part of the money financing the film was raised on Kickstarter, with one of the less expensive rewards including months of behind the scenes footage and updates.
The result is a movie that is, for better or worse, very much Braff’s style and finds most of its comedy in his dialogue or reaction shots. Braff is a charismatic actor, but he can’t quite get the best of himself or edit in a way that feels like it isn’t about having him onscreen as much as possible. It’s the moments when his character Aidan is absent, such as a particularly great scene between Sarah (Kate Hudson) and his father (Mandy Patinkin) that really shine. Josh Gad’s portrayal of his brother Noah is well-acted, but the character seems to mostly be there to make Aidan seem less of a loser by comparison.
Mostly the movie seems to be trying to tell us something about family, fathers and sons and some deeper ideas. It breaks these heavy moments up with lighter scenes of Aidan trying to figure out how to home-school his two children. It doesn’t quite handle the transition from the father being adamant that his children attend a private Jewish school with the realization that he mainly wants to hold the family together and sees his sons as having failed to get that message. This makes the first act particularly clunky, and there’s a scene that borders on “The Room” style silliness where Aidan finds out that his father is probably dying and then asked to watch his father’s dog. It’s the dog that makes him proclaim “there’s so much bad news all at once.”
The scene could have been funnier but Patinkin and Braff really only work in the scenes where they’re going for emotion rather than humor. You’re much more likely to cry than laugh at this movie, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Chris and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car: