Wish I Was Here
Zach Braff's disappointing, Kickstarter-funded second film features Kate Hudson
Like the struggling protagonist of Wish I Was Here, unemployed actor and father Aidan Bloom, writer-director Zach Braff’s follow-up to Garden State has considerable baggage. The easy charm and comedic melancholy of Braff’s 2004 debut created a cult following: his fan-base ponied-up over three million dollars to make this film via the Kickstarter crowd-funding website.
Braff’s best writing (including his neatly constructed 2011 play All New People) is illuminated by caustic wit about the absurdity of modern life, and his observation of urban ennui remains a trademark here. Weighed down by his familial responsibilities, Braff plays Aidan as he shuffles around LA’s Santa Monica between his dying father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), shiftless brother Noah (Josh Gad) and wife Sarah (Kate Hudson), who is understandably frustrated that Aidan's dream of becoming an actor has rendered him incapable of being a breadwinner.
Braff deserves credit for setting Wish I Was Here in a world of school fees, sexual harassment, expensive healthcare and other recognisably real elements, and some pathos is derived from their honest depiction. But his take on the deep subjects addressed is painfully shallow, and the resolution trite. Gabe’s comment that, ‘Things get so tragic that they turn full circle and become comedy again’ isn’t dramatically borne out by several montages of Aidan home-schooling his kids or teaching acting.
With satire limited to a dig at YouTube videos of kittens, shoehorned-in plugs for Aston Martin and Comic-Con, and poetry readings giving way to mix-tapes of maudlin hipster music, the self-aware humility of Garden State is regrettably missing. Despite laudably aiming for originality much of Braff's second film plays out as self-pitying Hollywood schmaltz.
Selected release from Fri 19 Sep.