Monday, July 28, 2014

Wish I Was Here: Movie Review

A fantasy twist on a family drama.

Wish I Was Here features a multitude of characters all struggling with where they are in life. Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is a father and an out of work actor unable to pay for his kids’ school. His own father is dying and doesn’t know how to accept that maybe he wasn’t a great father. Aidan’s wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) doesn’t know how to tell him that she’s unhappy with her job. 2014

Directed by: Zach Braff

Screenplay by: Adam J. Braff, Zach Braff

Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, and Mandy Patinkin

In addition, we also have Aidan’s brother Noah (Josh Gad) who is doing nothing with his life but doesn’t care, and Aidan’s kids who are trying to grasp the concepts of spirituality, life, dying and what their place in life is. What I liked about all of this unhappiness, death, spirituality and personal acceptance is that it was layered up with fantasy elements and comedy.

Braff’s Aidan opened the film with a very brief fantasy sequence (warrior fighters and/or aliens) and then was quickly brought back to reality and had a number of funny lines with his wife and kids. He is correct that comedy is the best way to one’s heart to then make the audience more accepting of the upcoming drama. But we had a spiritual stop-over with the kids attending a private Jewish school and Aidan discussing his options with the rabbi. He had a number of hilarious observations, but he also viewed spirituality as a very important element of his kids’ upbringing. This can distance those of us with more atheistic views. And then we get the family drama with the father announcing his fatal cancer and denouncing his own sons’ way of life. It wasn’t unhappy in an affecting way, it was unhappy in a despondent way.

I enjoyed Aidan’s daughter Grace (Joey King); she had a beautiful screen presence and a very unique and appropriate response to her coming-of-age maturation. She was cute, smart, funny, real and had a level of empathy which the adult characters didn’t possess. I also really enjoyed Josh Gad’s Noah. He lived out of a trailer and has moved on from app research to blog writing, but he had a passion for geek culture, esoteric knowledge and all things Comic-con. The Comic-con setting for his storyline is very timely and lends him a smart, funny, real and empathetic nature. He had a passion which the other adult characters didn’t possess.

The family drama weighs down the comedy a bit more than I would have liked. The spirituality gives the film more substance but it also limits its audience. Wish I Was Here was criticized for using Kickstarter and crowdfunding, but going the studio route would have stripped the film of Braff’s original vision. As a Hollywood movie it either would have been a comedy with no dramatic or spiritual substance and especially no fantasy elements, or it would have been a drama with a few comedic one-liners and no fantasy or geek elements. Either way, it would have had no fantasy or geek elements and no individuality, which is exactly what makes the film a more interestingly enjoyable experience.