Zach Braff has come full circle, premiering his sentimental passion project, "Wish I Was Here" ten years after the success of Sundance favorite, "Garden State." The actor/filmmaker is no longer wallowing in his twenties, but that doesn't mean he has moved on from stories about the search for "love" and the "meaning of life." This time around, love is found in family and not the girl next door. Co-written with his brother Adam, Braff's latest venture is much like flipping through the pages of a family photo album. Pictures of memories and happier moments that leave you with the realization that you can't turn back the hands of time and that life passes you by with the snap of a finger. It is a story about values, seeking spirituality and one's purpose on Earth. Despite some small bumps along the way, the Braff brothers have made a beautiful film that will make most appreciate the 'near and dear' people in their life and the dreams we hope to fulfill.
While this is not a sequel to "Garden State," Braff's character is still a Los Angeles based out of work actor. Aidan Bloom (Braff), with his five-o-clock shadow and deep under-eye circles, is not doing a great job holding his family together financially. His wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson) supports Aidan and their two children (Joey King and Pierre Gagnon) with her dull 9-5 cubicle job. The pressure piles on after learning that Aidan's father (Mandy Patinkin) is dying of cancer. And so the challenging journey begins. Aidan attempts to home-school his children and reunite his unmotivated brother (Josh Gad) with their father after years of tension, among other trials.
What throws the film off in the beginning are the 'cut-to' Aidan's daydream scenes. Throughout the movie, we are thrust into his imagination as he runs down a forestry path or the dessert in a futuristic Star Wars'esque suit. Instead of the hopeless father-husband he is in reality, Aidan escapes in his mind; becoming a superhero of sorts, racing towards something. In the end, these flashes seem to also be connected to the protagonist's fears. Fear of losing someone and failure. The only issue are the transitions from real life to these flash scenes. At times, they are out of place and inconsistent.
One of the best casting choices was young actress Joey King. Not only does she look like the birth child of Zach Braff, but she has the range and depth of a seasoned actor. Her performance is just as mature and touching as veteran Mandy Patinkin. The ensemble chemistry is natural. Braff, who had admired Kate Hudson's work since "Almost Famous," was certain he wanted her for the part of Sarah. There was clear on-screen respect and passion between the two; making for a perfect young married couple. The youngest son (Gagnon) is the comic relief, with his foul language and quick-witted humor. The rock of the cast is Patinkin. He is brilliant as the father/grandfather who had high expectations for his children's future. The 61 year-old actor is fearless in the shoes of his blunt and shrewd character. With all of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film, there are just as many tearful ones.
For two brothers who sought out to write what they have known in real life, "Wish I Was Here" is an exceptional portrayal of a family at a turning point. With a $5 million dollar budget, including $3 million from Kickstarter investments, the public who contributed and admirers of Braff's work need not be disappointed.
By Pamela Price
Production companies: Double Feature Films, Second Stix Films, Worldview Entertainment
Director: Zach Braff
Screenwriters: Adam Braff, Zach Braff
Producers: Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg, Adam Braff, Zach Braff
Executive producers: Christopher Woodrow, Molly Conners, Maria Cestone, Sarah E. Johnson, Hoyt David Morgan
Director of photography: Lawrence Sher
Production designer: Tony Fanning
Music: Rob Simonsen
Costume designer: Betsy Heimann
Editor: Myron Kerstein