Directed by: Zach Braff.
Written by: Adam J. Braff & Zach Braff.
Starring: Zach Braff (Aidan Bloom), Kate Hudson (Sarah Bloom), Joey King (Grace Bloom), Pierce Gagnon (Tucker Bloom), Mandy Patinkin (Gabe), Josh Gad (Noah Bloom), Alexander Chaplin (Rabbi Rosenberg), Jim Parsons (Paul), Allan Rich (Rabbi Twersky), Ashley Greene (Janine),Mark Thudium (Terry), Michael Weston (Jerry), Cody Sullivan (Jesse), Donald Faison (Anthony).
Of the many problems with Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here, the one that probably bothered me the most is that it is yet another glamorization of overgrown man children that Hollywood seems obsessed with – and have now started to infiltrate indie films as well. I’m not quite sure why movies seem so obsessed with men in their 30s and 40s who still act like children, who take a few tiny steps towards being an adult by the end of the film (usually because they find the love of a woman who has been idealized to unrealistic proportions) and this is treated as some sort of major victory for them. I don’t want to psychoanalyze the filmmakers or actors who make these types of movies – but I cannot help but wonder if it’s at least in part because being in Hollywood allows them to stay teenagers for years after the rest of us have had no choice but to grow the hell up.
To be fair to writer/director/star Braff, I do think he gets this on some level – and the film is partly about accepting reality, even if that means giving up on your dream. Braff plays Aidan Bloom, who wants desperately to be an actor (by the way, why is that successful actors always make movies about unsuccessful actors?) – but he actually hasn’t work in quite some time, and everyone around him knows that if he hasn’t achieved stardom – or even been able to make a living acting – yet, then he likely never will – but he will not give up. He’s married to Sarah (Kate Hudson), who is therefore stuck making all the money for the couple – and their two children, Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon). Aidan is so self-involved, he doesn’t even realize that Sarah hates her job at the water company – even at some point saying that “Sarah is living her dream”. When Sarah finally confronts him about getting a real job, he sulkily responds “I thought you supported my dream”, to which she responds “When did this relationship become all about your dream?”. Aidan is, sadly enough, more mature than his brother Noah (Josh Gad) – who lives in a trailer, and blogs, and does nothing else. His big plan is to make a costume from ComiCon so he can score with his hot neighbor, Janine (Ashley Greene) – who is making her own costume.
The movie revolves around what happens to this extended family when Aidan and Noah’s father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) is diagnosed with cancer, and given only a few months to live. This finally forces Aidan to examine his life a little bit – and grow the hell up. Noah is slowly on the uptake – he hates his dad, who let both of his kids know, repeatedly, how disappointed he is in them – but sooner or later you have to grow up. At this, perhaps the teenage Grace is well ahead of her father and uncle – or at least at the same maturity level.
Wish I Was Here has a lot of problems – mainly that I think it bites off far more than it can chew, and takes itself far too seriously. When Braff made his first film – Garden State – a decade ago, I think he captured something real about his lost, drug addled generation. A decade later, Wish I Was Here tries for the same type of generation defining story, but it comes across as phony and self-indulgent. Braff still hasn’t really learn how to write female roles – Natalie Portman redeemed a thinly written character in Garden State, but neither Hudson or King can make Aidan’s wife or daughter feel like anything more than a screenwriter’s concept – wise characters who have to help the poor, dumb menfolk grow up a little bit.
But basically, I must admit I’m just growing really, really annoyed with movies about lost men in their 30s still trying to figure out who the hell they are, and refusing to grow up. It’s becoming self-indulgent navel gazing in a way I just find incredibly irritating. It’s time to grow up.