Wish I Was Here

Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Josh Gad, Mandy Patinkin, Pierce Gagnon, Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene, Michael Weston, Donald Faison, Leslie David Baker, James Avery, Alexander Chaplin

Directed By: Zach Braff

Sometimes, when someone writes, directs, and stars in their own movie, there’s no one around who can really give them notes. The problem with Braff’s latest directorial effort is that despite the astounding amount of heart, and strong moments, it is obviously flawed. As a director, Braff failed the writer version of himself. As a writer, Braff failed the actor version of himself.

The film is based on a young man (Braff) growing up and realizing, too late, that he hasn’t grown up yet. That “stuck” feeling he has, is that he hasn’t accepted life’s greatest challenges yet, and hasn’t really stepped up and taken responsibility as a father. That all changes when his father (Patinkin) tells him that he’s dying, and he comes to terms with his own mortality, and his lack of accomplishments.

Hudson is quite charming as his wife, and has a good chemistry with Braff. She has an even greater chemistry/rapport with Patinkin, and they have a scene together later in the film that comes oh-so-close to saving the entire film. Braff also scores major kudos for landing two great child actors in Joey King and Pierce Gagnon. King especially is like a reincarnation of some of the greatest child actors, like Dakota Fanning, handling her scenes with remarkable understanding and depth. And Patinkin is great as the bitter old jewish father who never quite had a grasp on how to be a parent, and is hopelessly lost now as a widower.

Braff tries hard with the material written for himself, but he’s been written into a borderline unlikeable character who can’t see the world around him the way the audience can. It’s frustrating, because you want to root for him, but you almost can’t. Also frustrating his Josh Gad, as his brother, who Braff couldn’t decide if he should be an idiot savant, a man child, or a sad sack. He ends up being some bizarre amalgamation of all three. Gad is talented, and tried his best, but his character never feels settled.

It’s an imbalanced, imperfect film that is guilty of having a ton of heart. It tries so hard, and I was genuinely moved later in the movie, but moreso because of the supporting cast than the writing or directing.

The film also makes gigantic leaps of faith, that Hudson’s boss would really be that clueless, that a maid would really let a strange “pool guy” into a house with his kids, and basically everything having to do with Ashley Greene’s character.

I feel bad because the film isn’t a 39% film, but that’s the score on Rotten Tomatoes. It just means that only 39% of the critics liked it. I can understand why critics don’t like the film, but this is one of those rare films where I think the good outweighs the bad. I think there’s more to enjoy in this film than there is to hate.

Is it a great film? No. Am I glad I saw it? Yes.

Oh, and yes, the featured image is from this film, and is one of the many problems I have with this film. But I still think you should see it.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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