Wish I Was Here

Posted by Joel Copling on July 25, 2014

"Maybe we're the regular people, the ones who get saved." So says Aidan Bloom in narration at the beginning and during a crucial scene at the end of "Wish I Was Here," which tries and fails rather spectacularly to cull the profound from the mundane. Zach Braff plays Aidan as an irresponsible slacker of a father, which makes the above pronouncement seem more like an excuse for his behavior than an epiphany. Braff also directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Adam J., making anything wrong with film (and there is quite a lot wrong here) on his shoulders. The result of a ten-year break between Braff's previous directorial effort and this one is ultimately more interesting for its production history (This is the movie he crowd-funded through Kickstarter) than the self-importantly twee movie that resulted. No one needed to bother.

Aidan isn't exactly living his dream. He wants to be an actor, but auditions aren't working out; in an early scene, he and another aspiring actor played by Jim Parsons vie for a role that clearly, to everyone but they two, has moved in the direction of African-American performers, ho ho. Wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) resents him for his inactivity, working at a water regulation department with a creepy co-worker who sexually harasses her just to pay their bills while ignoring any personal dreams of her own. Children Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) aren't even afforded much in the way of depth by Braff's screenplay, while Aidan's brother Noah (Josh Gad) is more or less a dramatic nonentity until the homestretch.

That leaves Gabe (a terrific Mandy Patinkin), Aidan's dying father, to pick up the slack of dramatic threads that drag the rest of the film straight into the ground. It's enough of an emotional core--complemented nicely by the excellent soundtrack, which includes the likes of Cat Power, Colplay, and many others--that the film isn't completely useless, but this is a cynical movie in extreme denial about its own cynicism (which, one should realize, is its own form of cynicism). That Aidan is emotionally more or less ten feet to the right from where he started is proof enough that "Wish I Was Here" offers no growth for its main character. Because of that lack of grace, what surrounds him suffers as a result.

Film Information

Zach Braff (Aidan Bloom), Kate Hudson (Sarah Bloom), Mandy Patinkin (Gabe), Joey King (Grace Bloom), Pierce Gagnon (Tucker Bloom), Josh Gad (Noah Bloom).

Directed by Zach Braff and written by Adam J. and Zach Braff.

Rated R (language, sexual content).

106 minutes.

Released in select cities on July 18, 2014.