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Review: Wish I Was Here

Review: Wish I Was Here

| On 28, Sep 2014

Zach Braff’s latest foray into the world of directing is at once poignant and self-congratulating. Fans have followed the feature from the beginning, has Braff delivered on all his promises?

Following the cult success of his directorial debut, Garden State, Scrubs’ star Zach Braff turned to Kickstarter to help fund his next film.

The move garnered a lot of negative attention, many people upset that Kickstarter was being corrupted from its initial goal; to help fund the projects of those who couldn’t do it themselves. Zach had already independently sourced funding for his first film, why couldn’t he do it again?

Despite the poor feedback, $3million was successfully donated to the Wish I Was Here campaign. Braff’s new feature was under way, and without the strain or supervision of a production company.

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Wish I Was Here stars Braff as Aiden Bloom, an unfocused, brash family man, struggling to afford an education for his kids. When his father is hospitalised with a fatal illness, Aiden is called to make a choice between the search for meaning in his own life, and being a more responsible father figure for his children.

“I wrote garden state about a time in my life when I was feeling overwhelmed and lost in my 20’s. I guess you could say Wish I was Here is about the next chapter of life in your 30’s. Not a sequel in story, but it’s a continuation of the tone.” (Zach Braff).

Braff proves he is a master of characterisation, pulling together a skewed, but still whole family picture. The surfer-come-office worker mother (Kate Hudson), bald, orthodox Jewish daughter (Joey King), and nervous shut in brother (Josh Gad). All the pieces are disjointed, but the family dynamic is both engaging and believable.

Credit for this is due in part to the quality of actors on display. Josh Gad is understated in his role, providing fantastic comedy relief as well as genuine heart. Young newcomer Joey King in the role of Aiden’s daughter, gives a stellar performance for someone her age.

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While Wish I Was Here is as rich in style as Braff’s first feature, it feels far less genuine in tone. Dialogue is constantly reaching for something more profound, and every scene feels as though its sole purpose is to divine some perfect piece of wisdom on the audience.

Sure, moments of genuine inspiration and insightfulness come along, but only after three clumsy attempts previously. We lose the story within this collection of life lessons. Even when scenes seem to be building to something genuine, they tend to drag, and the films energy quickly dissipates.

Braff had stated that Kickstarter was his way to “make a movie for you with no compromises”. Unfortunately, it seems a few compromises should have been made.

Overall, much like Garden State, the film is regularly funny and touching, but in Braff’s search for poignancy the story is often lost.

Wish I Was Here constantly dances on the verge of honesty and pretentiousness. Excellent acting and a vivid soundtrack and art style are let down by a script that is too desperate to say something life-changing.

Despite these flaws, Wish I Was Here is still an enjoyable and heart-warming exploration of family, forgiveness, and home schooling.

Here’s hoping Zach Braff has continued plans for filmmaking in the future.

You can view the trailer here. Or, Visit the official website.

Photo Credit: Wish I Was Here Official Website