WISH I WAS HERE
Aidan Boom (Zach Braff) is a struggling actor, father and husband who at 35 is still struggling to find his identity and purpose in life. He and his wife (Kate Hudson) are also struggling financially. When his father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) faces a medical crisis and can no longer afford to pay for the private school Aidan's 5 and 12 year old kids attend, and the unpalatable option is a public school on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to home school them. His brother Noah (Josh Gad), long estranged from their father, remains something of a beachside hermit, unwilling to join the family.
Review by Louise Keller:
Happiness, alien super heroes and searching through a maze of uncertainty are the goal posts of Zach Braff's funny, rich and meaningful exploration of life, ten years after his successful, debut Garden State. Braff returns as the protagonist, still searching for the epiphanies to provide the answers to life's never-ending riddles. Witty, zippy dialogue coupled by tangible situations and honest reactions mesh sweetly to create a dense and meaningful film, replete with all the ups and downs that life can dish out and to which we can relate so intimately. Dreams and expectations are a vital part of the mix as the main themes of parenthood, relationships and beliefs are squeezed through the ringer in the surprising adventure of everyday life.
For Braff's family-man Aidan, pursuing his dream to be an actor seems to override his sense of responsibility, compounded by his childhood fantasy about saving the day as a superhero spaceman. The scenes in which Aidan (whose last job was in a dandruff shampoo commercial) waits with other acting hopefuls for auditions that never pay off are played with brevity and sit-com humour. God might work in mysterious ways, but Aidan's overtly Jewish father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) has no qualms about telling his son that God wants him to provide for his family and that it wasn't God but Thomas Jefferson who believed in the pursuit of happiness. The quips and funny lines spit out swiftly and naturally - especially in the first half - as 'life is happening all around' and the dynamic shifts as Gabe's financial assistance to put his two grandchildren through Jewish school is jeopardised by his cancer crisis.
The flippancy of the household 'swear jar', the laughs generated by Aidan's nerdy, trailer-living brother Noah (Josh Gad) and the light-hearted banter concerning the now home-schooled kids (Joey King as tom-boy teen Grace and Pierce Gagnon as unruly younger Tucker) suddenly turns as life and death issues take hold. As Aidan's wife Sarah, Kate Hudson has never been so good: she delivers the film's most moving moment when she expresses heart-felt issues with great simplicity. She is the emotional backbone of the film. The earlier zany humour settles into a holding pattern as circles are formed around the film's central tragedy.
Filled with light and shade, laughs and tears, this is a satisfying and uplifting film that offers its own take on the vast complexities of life. As for epiphanies, perhaps there is more probability to allow life's waves to wash over us as we search for new beginnings.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lashed together with bands of humour, Wish I Was Here is really a darkish parcel of stumbling humanity in search of answers we all seek - like the meaning of life. But broken down by Zach and Adam Braff into manageable portions, this quest is given imaginative flight and touching intimacy.
Aiden Bloom (Zach Braff) is one of those self excommunicated Jews who is like a reverse convert; he shuns his old faith more vehemently than a non Jew. This is used in a comedic manner, but the underlying grit is evident. It's not the central concern of the screenplay, but it helps add texture in the many scenes that involve faith ... and not just the obvious ones with the Jewish Rabbi from the school where Aidan's father has been paying the bills for his grandchildren.
Aidan's faith-filled father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) only agreed to help if the kids went to a (Jewish) school of his choosing. But when he has a more urgent need for money to try and help defeat his growing cancer, Aidan - ever out of work as an actor - has to take some responsibility.
The screenplay has Aidan's wife Sarah (Kate Hudson, terrific) play the breadwinner, a cause of friction in various ways. Not that they live in a slum; their biggest misery seems to be a swimming pool that's empty because it needs to be repaired. Swimming, it later turns out, has a metaphoric role to play. But this is part of the package: Aidan's chosen 'dream' is constantly derided and painted as the cause of so many family problems.
As the cancer invades and destroys Gabe's being, the now self propelled Aidan is putting his life into gear. His relationship with his brother Noah (Josh Gad) is also a platform for some dark humour, but there is pathos here, too, and Gad is the right one to deliver that.
Indeed the performances are all superb, with Patinkin rising to the occasion as the dying father with demons to kill, and Aidan as the wishful thinker with fantasy demons to kill, finally realising that he has to face the world's real demons. Both Joey King as daughter Grace and Pierce Gagnon as young son Tucker are excellent.
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WISH I WAS HERE (M)
CAST: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Ashley Greene
PRODUCER: Zach Braff, Adam Braff, Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg, Matthew Andrews
DIRECTOR: Zach Braff
SCRIPT: Zach Braff, Adam Braff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Sher
EDITOR: Myron I. Kerstein
MUSIC: Rob Simonsen (music from The Shins, Bon Ivar, Cat Power, Coldplay)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Fanning
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2014