“Wish I Was Here” Review

Illustrated graphic for "Wish I Was Here" movie.

I had the pleasure of seeing an advanced screening of “Wish I Was Here” which is Zach Braff’s latest movie; and second as writer/director after “Garden State”. It was co-written with his brother Adam and financed by Kickstarter.

I’ll start by prefacing that I’m a big fan of “Garden State”. If you enjoyed this film, I’m sure “Wish I Was Here” will also appeal. “Garden State” struck a chord with a select demographic. “Wish I Was Here” does the same, not surprisingly it is the same audience ten years on who are enjoying its sly wit, visual chemistry and heartfelt honesty. The audience may be ten years older, but are they any wiser? They’re asking similar questions only now they have more responsibilities and fewer answers.

It follows Zach Braff’s character Aiden, a struggling actor. Whose career trajectory seems to mirror his home life. His wife played beautifully by Kate Hudson is pulling away from him as the stress of being the sole provider for the household begins to show. Aiden’s father Gabe played by Mandy Patinkin has cancer and is struggling to find answers. Whilst Aiden’s two children have to be removed from school due to a lack of money.

wish_i_was_here_raw_funnyThis rather maudlin subject matter lends itself to a heart-warming funny tale of a family finding its feet. Zach Braff anchors the movie well but its Kate Hudson who is in career best form who steals the show. Her character despite having less screen time really makes the most of it. It is an honest and very raw portrayal of a woman trying to unify her family whilst searching for happiness.

Josh Gad as Aiden’s brother puts in a layered performance which glimpses at not only his range but great timing. He will no doubt be in demand in coming years for both drama and comedy. Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory shows up playing what could well have been himself. An aspiring actor doing back to back auditions and not finding any paid work. It’s a nice touch as Jim Parsons was also a bit player in Garden State, back when he was an unknown.

This film would not have been made had it not been for the many fans of Zach Braff and Garden State stumping up a large chunk of the money. The result of this is a loyal fan base that has had the privilege of following the film making process as it happens. No doubt these very interesting mini documentaries will suit the DVD release.

We can’t finish this review without mentioning the soundtrack. It is just as “Garden State’s” was. An absolute killer! Zach Braff won a Grammy for the best Soundtrack for “Garden State” and I would hope he would be nominated for “Wish I Was Here” as well. It is a rare talent who can compile a mix of beautiful music, some written expressly for the movie, that works as a standalone album as well as play within the structure of the film. Look out for the stand outs, Breathe In – Japanese Wallpaper, Wish I Was Here – Cat power and Coldplay, Heavenly Father – Bon Iver.

My initial viewing of this movie was on a computer screen at home by myself. My feelings on it were that it was touching, hilarious and heart-warming. It also kept me thinking about it for days to come. I have since seen it at the cinema with a packed audience. I’m happy to report that my reaction to this sublime film was right on the money. The hundreds of people that I saw it with, including my wife, who has impeccable taste, uniformly loved it. It’s a rare thing to have applause at the end of a public screening of a movie. I’m glad I was there for it.

By Mark Piper   4 out 5