Wish I Was Here (2014) – Review

Directed by Zach Braff
Written by Adam J Braff, Zach Braff
Starring Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon
Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family.

Of the many things I love about Zach Braff projects, the thing I like most is his taste in music and his ability to place his soundtracks just about perfectly, complementing the visuals with enviable flair. Tarantino had much the same talent, and may yet still, but Braff’s choices are always less predatory, alive with the rainbows of whimsy that match his content as well as Tarantino does angry and cool, but on a much more warm and subtle scale.
Awarded a limited release by Focus Features after its appearance at Sundance earlier this year, Wish I Was Here is clearly something of a labour of love for the Braff Brothers, Zach (Writer, Director, Star) and Adam (Co-Writer), Telling the tale of Aidan Bloom at the point in his life when a series of events culminate at one and the same time, forcing him to look at his life at little more closely than ever before, and on reflection, not exactly finding everything rosy in his garden.

“I thought the Jews ran Hollywood?”
“Me too. Maybe we’re in the wrong tribe, or something.” 
The film has received mixed reviews with most of the criticism, it must be said, levelled at the originality of the script and likening the story, tone and pace to other similar Braff projects that have gone before it. As a standalone piece of entertainment, however, this is as charming, and undeniably more Jewish, than most. The fact that it’s quite a bit like Braff’s other work is only relevant if you’ve seen all of the others and are looking for something different. For those that haven’t or aren’t, and there must be quite a few of you out there, then this will do just fine. If you’re here for more Scrubs, however, you might want to look away now, because it’s simply not that funny.
“I thought you supported my dream?”
“When did this relationship become solely about supporting your dream?”
But it is heartfelt and genuine. Braff’s portrayal of Aidan as flawed and amiably selfish is rounded enough to have at least this reviewer nodding sagely at some of the script, most often uttered by family breadwinner Sarah, played by Kate Hudson, who loves all of her family dearly, including Aidan, who seems to be somewhat disjointed from a reality that he doesn’t seem to really understand. As his fathers’ cancer progresses rapidly, his world begins to crumble as one turn of events after another forces Aidan, possibly against his good-natured will, to take both stock and responsibility.
But you cannot hep but take on board the nagging feeling that you’ve been here before. Not just with Braff, of course, but many other indies follow this path well travelled. Voyages of budget driven self-discovery are ten-a-penny these days and if we’re honest, this maybe feels just a bit too personal, perhaps a touch too selfish, to really resonate fully with the audience. There has to be strife in projects like this, we know, and this must be suffered by all the good people involved to make it truly effective, but this has been done with more humour and humanity before now.

“I’ve missed you.”
“What do you mean? I’ve been right here.”
“No you haven’t. I haven’t seen you for a while.”
In all, a perfectly watchable and often on the money tale of ordinary liveswith a fine group of actors all turing in good performances, celebrating the joys when available to the characters, in a sea of everyday that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, which as evidenced here, can be long and arduous for some, yet still hopeful and filled with creative wonder and emotional spirit. This fails, however, when attempting to stride from the sublime to the ridiculous, never quite reaching the pinnacle of either quite convincingly enough.

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