Wish I Was Here - Movie Review
Cast: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Mandy Patinkin Joey King, Kate Hudson, Alexander Chaplin
Director: Zach Braff
Funded by the Kickstarter method, Zach Braff's latest project, after the popular Garden State, is an interesting beast.
It's the story of Jewish Aidan, a 35 year old struggling actor, father of two and general selfish soul. When his father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) reveals he has cancer and can no longer fund his grandchildren's schooling, Aidan is forced to take them out of school, and decides to teach them himself.
However, that's not all he's having to juggle with his father's impending death - there's the issue of Noah (his brother)'s rift with his father, his daughter Grace wanting to keep the faith and his growing separation from his wife Sarah (Hudson).
Wish I Was Here is, at times, both beautiful and personal, as well as humorous and heartfelt.
Braff has an excellent eye for framing shots and there are some truly stunning ones committed to the screen; and there are a few natural moments that feel realistic as well with the opening banter of parents and kids being one of the highs. But his Aidan is not really a character that we care for; a man whose selfishness descends so deep as to make his wife work a job she clearly detests while he can indulge in his own dreams and whims rather than be a better father.
Inevitably, it means that Adian's journey to self-redemption follows a very predictable path that flounders in moments of cliche as well as random humour (a Rabbi taking off on a segueway and slamming into a hospital wall being the chief offender) simply because that's what Braff wants to do. (Equally, a scene where his character is reunited with his Scrubs' cohort Donald Faison offers no purpose other than a fan serving moment, a nod to those who launched his career).
That said, there are moments though which hit the heart with a poignant arrow - chiefly, a scene between a dying Gabe and Sarah in a hospital. The tenderness, regret and openness of this one conversation demonstrates the power of Braff's ability to make a film - and Hudson and Patinkin's power to deliver it (and one which shows why Garden State was so beloved).
But it's chiefly lost in a film that is all about faithlessness and searching; which ironically is perhaps how it will be defined, as it spends a lot of its time searching for itself - and never quite finding it.