Somewhere out there, James Mercer is pissed that he didn’t get a paycheck.
Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is an aging, near-40-year-old dad who is struggling to make ends meet with his life. He works, but as an actor, which only means that he sometimes gets a role, and sometimes, he doesn’t. Basically though, he just day-dreams and longs about the good old days in which he and his brother (Josh Gad) used to dream about being in some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world where they were the good guys and everything that they wanted to happen, did in fact happen. However, the reality of it is that Bloom’s life kind of blows: His kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) get kicked out of their private Jewish school; his father (Mandy Patinkin) is slowly dying; his wife (Kate Hudson) is working a dead-end job that she hates and gets hit on by a co-worker at; and worst of all, the family is on the end of poverty. Without knowing full well what to do, Aidan decides to home-school his kids into being the best that they can be, while at the same time, seeing if he can be there for his dad when he needs him the most, especially during this critical time.
Though I clearly wasn’t in the intended age-group, Garden State still worked like gangbusters and gave me the impression that Zach Braff was capable of doing wonderful things with his career when he wasn’t being goofy, yet lovable J.D. Dorian. That said, Garden State was released nearly ten years ago and it makes you wonder exactly why it took Braff so damn long to get something out in the first place. Sure, people will say it was because no major-studio would back a project of his choosing (hence the infamous KickStarter campaign), but personally, I think it’s because Braff didn’t have much of a story to really work with. Maybe, just maybe, Garden State was all he had to say or do for the movie world, because when it comes right down to it: He’s sort of left treading the same waters.
Because, in the case of Wish I Was Here, as much as it pains me to say, it seems like Braff just remade Garden State, but this time, set it in Hollywood, get a bigger-budget, and involve less hipster-ish things to be found. Because yes, Braff is almost 40 and with that title comes going through the motions that most adults go through, and that’s what we all call “adulthood”. And it’s a shame to see somebody as lively and as charming as Braff to get older, grow up a bit and have to deal with real issues that most adults have to deal with on a daily-basis, but he’s only human dammit, so I guess it was inescapable.
However, him being older in age and in the brain, doesn’t excuse this film from being a mess; much rather, a mess that doesn’t know what it wants to say. I already made a mention of this being like a sort-of remake of Garden State, but the real fact is that this movie doesn’t have a clue what it wants to do, whereas every move that movie made was clear, inspired and brought the whole piece together. Here, with Wish I Was Here, you can almost see Braff fumbling with this story, what it means, what he’s trying to say, and how we’re all supposed to make sense of it. Which, in all honesty, would have been fine really, had anything in the mess been all that interesting to begin with. But there isn’t anything of that nature.
Seeing Zach Braff in a movie and his wife being Kate Hudson is interesting, I guess, but they’re kind of a traditional-couple that doesn’t quite feel like anything we haven’t seen done before. In a way too, we sort of feel bad for her and have a problem with him, because while he’s off trying to live his dream (aka, sit at home, mope, whine and not do shite with his life), she’s out at work, with people she hates, doing work she downright distastes, and practically supporting the whole family. Hudson’s fine in this role and has more than a couple of scenes where her charm comes out, but her character seems like she’s just a stepping-stool and after awhile, you’ll wonder when she’s going to get fed-up with all of this crap, take the kids and leave Braff’s bum-self.
And that’s not saying Braff is at all bad in this movie – in fact, he’s very much still Zach Braff, if that makes any sense. He’s still quick-witted, smart, charming, a tad goofy, and capable of being serious when he so damn well pleases, but his Aidan Bloom-character just isn’t all that fascinating to begin with in order to have us want to see where his life goes and why. We know that he wants to support his adoring-family, while also maintaining a respectable career as an actor, but sooner or later, it gets to be a bit tiresome to see him constantly try hard and then end up bummed out about life. I get that’s how life works in general, but it’s not something I want to watch for nearly two hours, especially not in this pretentious of a way.
Also, with that being said, the movie does feel like its every bit of two hours, which really does this movie in. And because of its length, more of the movie’s weaker-points begin to show a lot more. For instance, the whole subplot with Bloom’s brother, could be taken out completely and there would be nothing at all wrong with this movie. Not only would it trim some film, but it would also spare us the corny message Braff ends up summing this film on.
Basically, by connecting each and everyone of the subplots he has cobbled-up here, Braff lets us know that parenting is hard, and that’s about it. There’s a lot more talk about the Jewish faith, where we go when we all die, some of his thoughts on that, and why family is important, but it never quite builds to anything. All it is is filler for Braff to keep his movie long, over-stacked and as pretentious as he can possibly make it. And yes, I know I sound terrible and all, but seriously, was this really the type of movie us fans donated money towards? Something that just repeats exactly what Braff did nearly ten years ago, except this time, have it include family, and death, and the Jewish faith?
I don’t think so and honestly, if I were Zach Braff, I’d feel a little ashamed in myself. That’s not to say that everything in this movie is terrible; more often than not, the choices Braff makes as a director are as bold as they could come from somebody not being fronted by a major-studio. However, more often than not, Braff falls down with whatever message he’s carrying, and while he does get back up to fight again, and again, and again, you have to wonder when he’s going to just stop, give it up and let us realize that maybe he doesn’t have much left to say at all.
Except that the Shins are a really rad band. Man.
Consensus: While it may be nice to see Zach Braff both in front of, as well as behind the camera after all of this time, Wish I Was Here still can’t help but feel like a disappointing retread of ideas, themes and messages he’s explored before, to a much better result.
5 / 10 = Rental!!