Wish I Was Here

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Zach Braff

Starring

Joey King Kate Hudson Zach Braff

Anticipation.

Zach Braff is the hipster Jerry Seinfeld.

Enjoyment.

Underwhelming if occasionally charming.

In Retrospect.

Decidedly ineffectual.

Zach Braff stays on comfortable turf in this dramedy about a man facing the inevitability of death.

Zach Braff fans will be pleased to hear that he hasn’t changed his tune much since making his directorial debut with 2004’s Garden State. In that navel-gazing cult oddity, Braff played a struggling actor whose mother’s death becomes the catalyst for a journey of soul-searching and self-discovery. In Wish I Was Here, Braff plays a struggling actor forced to reassess his life when his father is taken terminally ill. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The major difference now is that, a decade on, Braff is more suited to playing an adult approaching crisis. For starters he appears more comfortable in his own skin, which is just beginning to show signs of industry fatigue. And, although he’s scarcely endowed with leading man charisma, at 39 he’s a more assured central presence than before.

He’s also adjusted his ‘deadbeat son’ routine to comprise ‘deadbeat dad’ – his winning chemistry with onscreen kids Joey King and Pierce Gagnon holds the film together whenever the script gets too earnest. Less natural is the relationship between Braff’s Aidan and Kate Hudson as bread-winning wife, Sarah, though a tender deathbed heart-to-heart remedies much of her maternal passivity.

Aside from a handful of clunky fantasy sequences depicting Braff as a sword-wielding space ranger perpetually running from a mysterious cloaked figure (metaphor!), there’s not enough here to suggest that Braff has developed as a filmmaker. Sure, all of the basic ingredients that made Garden State click for some people are present, and Braff tackles the same Big Themes with the same degree of heart-on-sleeve sincerity, but anyone (i.e. the film’s 46,520 Kickstarter backers) hoping for greater pathos will be left disappointed.

Wish I Was Here is a film of moments – some funny, some tragic – that, like Braff’s character, is likely to leave you feeling disenchanted.

Published 8 Sep 2014

Tags: Zach Braff

Anticipation.

Zach Braff is the hipster Jerry Seinfeld.

Enjoyment.

Underwhelming if occasionally charming.

In Retrospect.

Decidedly ineffectual.

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