Wish I Was Here
Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor, father and husband, is 35 years old and still trying to find a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he'd always dreamed he'd be as a little kid. When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn't find.
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★★★½ review by Brian Hammons on Letterboxd
There were a few moments that bordered on manufactured or clear missteps -- but the end result was undeniably sweet and heartfelt even if the path there wasn't without the occasional speed bump. Braff's particular brand of life realization and epiphanies distilled to earnest one-liners (my favorite being "Try to remember how fast it goes") may be schmaltzy to some which I can see but a lot of it lands with me and his message of life, messy and all, though difficult is beautiful has came through consistently in both of his directorial efforts.
★★★½ review by Thomas McCallum on Letterboxd
Wish I was Here is a completely entertaining, heartfelt film in it's own right. When held up to the lofty expectations of fans of Zach Braff's debut Garden State though it falls a bit flat.
Being one of the aforementioned fans of Braff's original impossibly quirky, hipster masterpiece I found myself realizing I had set the bar too high and wishing that I hadn't. As it stands, Wish I Was Here features some fantastic performances. Mandy Patinkin is an absolute joy to watch (he always is) and Joey King did some wonderful work. This is probably her juiciest role to date and she bits in and owns the role with all the conviction of an actor three times her age. Kate Hudson and surprisingly Josh Gad had some very emotional scenes themselves and handled them quite well. In fact, probably the only actor I didn't feel the passion from was Braff himself.
The story, while occasionally heartbreaking and for the most part interesting, didn't hit me quite like Garden State did. This is a personal problem. One that I shouldn't take out on Wish I Was Here. I'm only a human though and it's hard for me not to make the connection. If you've seen the trailer for this you'll be familiar with its oft repeated line "maybe we're just the regular people, the ones who get saved". It works to wonderful effect in the trailer. It also sounds good at the beginning of the film. It starts to lose its effect though when you here it again in the middle. By the end of the film, hearing it again only made me groan. There are a few instances of situations like this. Braff definitely doesn't have as much to say here as he did 10 years ago. It comes off as a very thin story stretched out as much as he could possibly get away with without it snapping.
My other problem lays with the uh, fantasy sequences. It's during these that the films low budget is clear as day. I guess in some strange, backwards way the fantasies service the story, but by looking the way that they do, they do more harm than good. On the other hand though, I think that Braff has gotten better as a director. His script may not be fantastic but his camera work is consistently great and occasionally stunning. There are a lot of different styles to balance together (fucking fantasy sequences) and he handles himself quite well. His soundtrack is, again, beautiful. Picking the right song for the right moment is something this guy can just do.
I Wish I Was Here is a huge step forward for Zach Braff the director and maybe a small step back for Braff the actor and writer. It isn't Garden State 2 and it was never going to be. It's an enjoyable film though, albeit one that falls short of the mostly unreasonable expectations it's expected to live up to.
★★★½ review by Caty Alexandre on Letterboxd
I was a bit septic about this film since I did not like what Zach Braff did with Garden State but Wish I Was Here turned out to be a good surprise. Definitely more meaningful and heartfelt than his previous work.
As in Garden State, the main character of this story Aidan, is an actor who lives in Los Angeles, whose career never crossed mere theater plays and some TV commercials. He continues to fight for his dream and believes that someday he will succeed. The problem is that, that day never comes. Aidan is married and has two children and is a woman is who supports the family. He ends up by being forced to have to teach their children at home because his father, a Jew extremely dedicated to religion that required that his grandchildren attend a private Jewish school, due to a tragic situation can no longer afford to keep paying a good education for them and the only public school available near the area does not have the best reputation. Once all this happens, the life of Aidan is not going to be the same.
Wish I Was Here is the story of the inner journey of a man who did not know for sure what was to be a grown up, have responsibilities, children to educate and deal with bad situations that exist in life. It's a beautiful message about how we should not give up our dreams, but always considering the best every time. It is given much importance to the concept of family in a very touching way, although it could have avoided some of the usual clichés.
Zach Braff gives a good performance. He and Kate Hudson make a good couple on screen and I found Kate Hudson's performance particularly good, different than the genre she have done over the years. On a more serious and balancing role in the film. I hope she continues to choose roles that escape a bit from her usual romantic comedies. The kids of the film are absolutely adorable and talented, Pierce Gagnon was very funny and Joey King who here gave me reasons to start keeping an eye on her (for those that not see who the girl is, she plays Colin Hanks daughter in the tv show Fargo). Mandy Patinkin, who plays Aidan's father had a not easy and very emotional performance brought flawlessly. The only character I couldn't connect at all, perhaps because it was poorly developed was Josh Gad's character, who plays Aidan's peculiar brother.
I found very cool the fact Braff "grabbed" the same kind of character he used in Garden State as if he had carried him until now, ten years later. The similarities of personality between the characters of the two films are evident. Do not know if it was deliberate or not, but it was interesting.
Wish I Was Here is not a perfect film, but that will not take away the shine and authenticity that Zach Braff was able to put in it through the emotion he could transmit to the other side of the screen.
★★★½ review by feedingbrett on Letterboxd
There are points in our lives where we examine our existence, where the act of ignorance would no longer shelter us from such frightening questions; concepts like family, death, responsibility and regrets tend to be the familiar, though seemingly almost trivial, they are often the most penetrative. Many would continue to deny such things, but to do so would lay them dormant, stunted from growth from the person we are pushed to become, most often by forces that we can’t seem to explain, but are sure that their presence would be therapeutic and nurturing, at least in retrospect. Though I am early into my life, I have experienced such coincidence find more depth than I have anticipated, and surely my following of its displayed path, whether they may seem questionable and unpractical at the time, have led to a destination that is fruitful; a new chapter in my life that would soon divert me elsewhere when the unknown forces believe that such transition is necessary.
Wish I Was Here was a film that tapped into such ideas as it follows the tale of struggling father, Aidan Bloom, who is unfortunate in his luck for employment, an actor that is driven to bring rewards to his deepest passion, whilst married to an understanding woman, Sarah, who acts as the breadwinner and practical glue of their household, as they both attempt to manage their children, Tucker and Grace, and the lingering questions that are introspectively risen from the sudden news that Aidan’s father is once again stricken with illness, this time an outlook with a far more threatening outcome. Such an incident would sure raise questions and emotions that cannot be immediately understood, whether it is biological or spiritual, in most cases it pushes one to gain understanding and potentially recovery, much like the concept of grief; but as like anything within our lives, the journey is personal, but its themes and experiences are empathetic.
Zach Braff has taken on a project that is ambitious in its own right as it tackles great concepts whilst allowing accessibility and immersive drama to engage its audience, whilst leaving enough room for ambiguous gaps that allows for some contemplation and optimally self-reflection. The film seems to reach for so much, only to grab on tightly on some of them, resulting in an experience that is more than pleasing, but far from accomplishing its peak of potential. The film’s flaws are carefully buried underneath moments of genuine sadness and laughter, pulsating its characters with enough quirkiness in their personalities that they don’t come off as recycled and scenes unfold repetitively.
There is great sincerity in the ideas it touches on, almost as if Zach and his brother Adam J. Braff are positioned in a crises of their own, hoping to expose it in a format that would share their own grief and angst to the world in a way that is tender and supportive, rather than satirical and harsh. It is difficult for me to create comparisons to Braff’s previous effort, Garden State, as my lacking of actually seeing it would deprive contrasting any sense of integrity; but it was clear that Braff has reached a point that he is willing to undertake mature content, one that fits with the youthful and often comical sensibilities, allowing an understanding of this complicated world that is uniquely stamped, and not least of all entertaining. It was only fitting that to ensure its resonance remain impacting and sincere, that Braff should slip into the key role, providing that complexity and emotion that perfectly reflects his own turmoils and queries, a transformative arc that is both hopeful and comforting, if one allows it to be.
Indeed its transformative qualities can be found in the experience shared by its central protagonist, however it never bleeds as effectively as I would have hoped into the hearts and minds of its audience, indeed questions are left to contemplate, but did it leave me as stunned and deeply penetrated as say Tree of Life, a film that poses questions that are similarly in the same vein, but its rewards are far apparent, especially when viewed from a philosophical and cinematic standpoint? Certainly not, but it does provide that attribute of balance, accessibility and complexity, in a compensatory manner that is more likely to satisfy those who openly give it the mindset it deserves.
And to those who are fans of Braff's TV Series Scrubs, would be ecstatic at the cameos that he has littered throughout the film.
★★★★ review by Cogerson on Letterboxd
Why I watched this one? I have always liked Zach Braff....so I gave this one a spin.
What is this one about? Braff plays a struggling actor, father and husband finds himself at a major crossroad, which forces him to examine his life, his family and his career.
My thoughts on this one. Braff has put together a pretty good movie. Braff does a Woody Allen turn in this one....as he starred, wrote, produced and directed this one. Movie has a pretty cast that all create memorable characters. Kate Hudson shines as Braff's wife....her best role in years. Mandy Patinkin stands tall as Braff's sick father. Patinkin did his entire part in 4 days....they must have been some pretty busy days. And Josh Gad continues his roll as Braff's brother. Holding the entire movie together is Braff in the lead role. Final thought: An enjoyable movie.
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