FilmReview

Review: ‘Wish I Was Here’ Doesn’t Live Up To ‘Garden State’

Griffin Conlogue ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Joey King, Pierce Gagnon and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features.
Joey King, Pierce Gagnon and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features.

Zach Braff has finally released his first film since 2004’s Garden State. That film seemingly spoke to people, most college kids who had no idea where they were heading in life. Wish I Was Here is a sort of continuation of this, but instead of it being about not knowing where you are going it’s about getting there and still feeling lost. The film feels more professional, but lacks that special something that made Garden State the unique cult classic it is.

The thing about Wish I Was Here is that Braff had complete creative control over the project. Based on a script by him and his brother, Braff took to crowd funding website, Kickstarter, to fund the film. Initially asking for 2 million, the project would go on to raise 3 million dollars. Worldview Entertainment ended up helping finish the financing for the project. This control allowed Braff to shoot the film in LA, where it is set, as well as pick the cast for the film that he wanted.

The film tells the story of Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor living in LA who’s father is dying of cancer. His wife has hit a wall in her life professionally and romantically, and their children struggle after having to switch schools. Parallell to the story of Aidan is the story of his brother, Noah. Noah is a recluse living in a trailer near the ocean. A gifted genius, he spends most of his time bullying celebrities on twitter.

Kate Hudson and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Focus Features.
Kate Hudson and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Focus Features.

The film is a thrown together hodge-podge of vignettes surrounding the drama of a dying father and a struggling actor. It is about a 30 something man who had found his calling but has struggled mightely. This is what makes it a close connection to the tone and mood of Garden State, though not within the same universe or story. Unfortunately, the lack of cohesiveness throws one for a loop, as there isn’t much of a driving force to the story. It feels almost too much like a Woody Allen knockoff, a cheap impression of a more well done story, to reach the lofty goals it sets for itself. When a film sets off to be profound and to truly move people it can feel heavy handed and forced, something Wish I Was Here has been accused and tried of. It wants to change your life, it wants you to connect so badly and to see youself or your family in the film. This films heart feels transplanted, and not meant for it’s body.

It’s very self-indulgent and seems to not only ask but demand pity from its audience. It stands up and shouts “I’M LOST,” which lessens the potential emotional impact of it’s conclusion. It has the emotionally manipulative moments that will strike with anyone with daddy issues or a lack of empathy for others or are in a troubled marriage, but all of this continues to feel like it was knowingly placed in the film to target the viewers who would connect with this. Very little feels organic, outside of a scene that steals the show, featuring Braff and his character’s children (the amazing Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) as they go on an Aston Martin drive with Braff’s fellow Scrubs alum Donald Faison.

Mandy Patinkin and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features.
Mandy Patinkin and Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here. Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features.

The film seems to easy as well, as all the conflicts are tied up in a neat little bow and everything is happy when it’s all over. For a film that was made in a way to scorn Hollywood it sure has the Hollywood happy ending down pact. The characters really are a likable bunch, and it has it’s moments that will make you smile and even more than will make you laugh, but the man who plays a struggling actor on camera is starting to look more like a struggling director behind it.

Overall Grade: C

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