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“Wish I Was Here” – Review (SO-SO)

July 18, 2014

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 10.27.31 AMThe summer of 2004, I was a freshman about to become a sophomore in high school, I remember seeing remember seeing “Garden State” in the theaters that year. I remember seeing this movie, fueling my mind with the potential outlook of what the life a 20-something year old might be. It captivated me, I was nervous about the potential lack of career, and I was excited about the prospects of finding love, much to what Zack Braff’s Andrew was going through in the film.

Now, we fast-forward 10 years later, with Braff returning to the directors chair for his sophomore film, telling the story of a 30-something-year-old, and how life is even harder than 20-something. Problem is, the movie is focusing on too many problems it can’t find a pinnacle focus that his first film managed to accomplish.

Aidan Bloom (Braff), a struggling actor, father and husband, at 35 is still trying to find his identity. He winds up trying to home school his two children, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) & Grace (Joey King) when his father (Mandy Patinkin) can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find before.

I can see what Braff was trying to accomplish, he’s trying to do his own Woody Allen dramedy, and at times it works in a modest way, but then there are times when it’s too full of itself. The heavy themes of life & death, religion & spirituality, pursuit of happiness, etc. etc. is all fine and dandy, but if you’re overloading your plate, there’s no way you can finish it with satisfaction.

I come from a (somewhat) Jewish background, no I’m not religious, and I can somewhat identify with Braff’s character about something out there being more transcendent than the idea of God, but damn dude, there’s no need to be this preachy. The daughter character is perhaps the most poorly conceived character of the film, her constant pushing and shoving about her Jewish heritage and her dilemma about whether or not what she’s doing is right, it becomes tiresome and annoying.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 10.27.39 AMThe element of death in this film was handle maturely, that much I can agree on. The father-son dynamics I found identifiable, I can empathize with Aidan’s dreams and I can also empathize with Aidan’s father, Gabe, about him telling his son to find an actual career to support yourself and your family. There’s a fine grey line brought up in this film, choices that we have to make that are not as easy as they appear. Do we turn to god? Do we turn to our love ones? Our friends? Where can we find the answers?

“Wish I Was Here”, may not get everything right, but it brings up some good questions, and will leave you asking yourself those question after watching the film; for better or worse. I’m not sure why people have to hate on Braff, especially after the Kickstarter campaign, in a way I can see why he would turn to his fan base to fund this movie, a movie like this doesn’t really compare to “Garden State”, most of it doesn’t come off as film that many 20-something may be able to identify with. For me, I’m still split on this movie, I didn’t have the same reaction as when I saw “Garden State”, but maybe that’s the whole point.

GRADE: C+

Special thanks to Hilary Webber for attending the screening and sharing her input.

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