Though Wish I Was Here is Zach Braff‘s second directorial effort, the filmmaker has never been one to play by the rules. As Garden State was the unconventional film that really put indies on the map, his follow up tries to replicate the same success it had and overall tones and feels, but not too much avail.
Since it has been ten long years since his directorial debut, and Garden State‘s reputation has since lost its luster, which made it the perfect time for Braff to return to the director’s chair for the second time. Unfortunately, Braff’s kind of work isn’t exactly in high demand, not even by smaller studio standards. So understandably the filmmaker looked to his fans’ support and launched a Kickstarter with the intent on producing and finding a distributor for Wish I Was Here. But that made things only worse, considering Braff should have enough pull to get studios interested in his work, even if it isn’t in high demand.
That being said, while the film has heart, the film is so full of itself and thinks that the audience will get all of the jokes, sympathize with the characters’ struggles, and understand the message. There just isn’t really anything to like about the film over all. Hit the jump for the full review.
The film starts out by showing just how immature and irresponsible Aidon Bloom (Zach Braff) is by slinging f-bombs and other obscenities in front of his own children. Apparently this is appropriate behavior in the household. Even by modern family standards one has to think, how dysfunctional is this family where the dad feels that it is appropriate to speak to his children like he was at a World Cup match.
As you get past that point, we start to see the irresponsibility of Aidon has his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), continues to pester him about getting the money to pay for their kids’ (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) tuition from his dad Gabe (Mandy Patinkin).
Slowly the plot of the film starts to reveal itself as Aidon, an unemployed actor, is now burdened with taking care of his dad, whose cancer has returned. Not only that but he also pulled his kids out of school to be home schooled, against his wife’s consent. Sarah honestly gives her husband way too much leniency, and allows him to do almost anything during the family’s dire situation. She in no way provides the support or the kick in the ass Aidon needs to get his head on straight and focus on what the family really needs. Instead she chooses to believe that Aidon’s quirky train of thought and outside the box thinking will actually pay the bills. Then, there is the lazy brother, the one-dimensional Noah (Josh Gad), who refuses to take any responsibility of his own and continues to live the life of laziness and masturbation.
At this point the metaphors and messages for this film would have knocked any member of the audience unconscious, but then Braff finds more blunt objects to continue to beat us over with as Aidon lacks the direction he needs to progress through life. The character is constantly making one bad decision after another, and Braff tries to make something funny without having actually set anything up for the punchline. This comes off as a bit arrogant and pretentious, as Braff expects us to laugh at the characters’ misery. it is only until after two acts does he learn that life as a thirty-something year old son, a father, and a husband is really hard.
Wish I Was Here is way too free spirited for its own good, and tries the be the Garden State for thirtysomethings, but fails miserably to do so. The film is so uneven, and horribly paced, making the Kickstarter effort look like all the backers’ efforts to get this film produced was all in vain. Chock full of subplots like the father being stricken with cancer, the father wishing his two sons could reconcile, Aidon having to deal with teaching his kids at home with strange metaphors that includes rebuilding the home’s broken fence or taking them out to the middle of the desert, or buying pink wigs, dealing with the fact that he is doing absolutely nothing while his wife is being sexually harassed by a co-worker. With so many subplots to focus on, its actually hard to pinpoint what we should be “really” focusing on. It ultimately comes down to the idea that life as a thirtysomehting year old is hard. But the fact that it took two hours and countless subplots to tell the audience that life is hard is flat out stupid, and for us the endure that is painful enough as it is.
There is a message written some where within Wish I Was Here, and while it’s been told once before, it’s one that needs to be heard. But the film tells it in such a hollow and pretentious way, it makes the film feel very hollow, and is a slap in the fact to those who actually backed Braff’s Kickstarter campaign.