With Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff continues to document the life journey of the male emo millennial. If 2004’s Garden State showed us the said millennial in his 20s, Wish documents him a decade later in his 30s, domestically settled down with kids as well as non-artistic responsibilities.
Braff plays Aiden, an unemployed actor, married to the hardworking Kate Hudson, with two precocious children in a private Jewish school, a slacker brother and a dying father (Mandy Patinkin). And he, of course, is searching for answers. Or epiphanies. With arms wide open. Cue the incessant emo rock on the soundtrack that features The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, Paul Simon and other usual suspects.
Although not as sweepingly effective as Garden State, Wish still somehow works while being set in a sit-com purgatory where everyone has the perfect one-liner under a pall of sanitized mumblecore navel-gazing. There’s also a welcome, healthy dose of Jewish religion to ground the work with some sort of sense of time and existence other than that of the flustered, aging hipster. The ultimate appeal of this movie probably comes from the abject, good-natured sincerity pouring off the script by Braff and his brother Adam. Even with all the magical unrealism going on, the depiction of the family dynamics and relationships feel genuine.
Hudson is charming and gorgeous as ever. Perhaps a little too charming and gorgeous for a mother working full-time doing data entry for the Department of Water. Patinkin verges on the edge of over-acting, but then he always does. Jim Parsons has a small part as an acting colleague of Braff’s and one wonders if he will ever be able to shake the aura of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.
Controversial for its Kickstarter-funded budget, Braff’s very public battle for final cut may have resulted in a product a bit too precious and forced. But that doesn’t mean Wish I Was Here isn’t worthy of existing, complete with its heart on the sleeve of its hipster t-shirt.
At the end of the July 17 screening at the Kahala theaters, Frolic Hawaii’s Brian Watanabe hosted a Q&A with co-screenwriter and 6-year Honolulu resident Adam Braff (Zach’s bro, pictured left).
Some of the highlights from that Q&A:
- When questioned on how to get ahead in screenwriting: Find “a partner who is an international celebrity” and “sharpen your pencils.”
- Braff would like to work on a project reuniting his brother with his Scrubs co-star Donald Faison.
- Adam Braff’s favorite moment in the film—Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin in the hospital. “I don’t think you see someone reminding someone on their deathbed that they have unfinished business.”
- “There’s quite a bit of things that will be on the DVD.”
- Rowdy the stuffed dog from Scrubs is indeed somewhere in the film.
- “I don’t know how this movie got so Jewish.”
- They actually only had Mandy Patinkin for four days during the production.
Coolest part of the Q&A though? Once the film finished, they killed the credits in the middle and just started into it. I thought we’d have to wade through the whole thing before it started, but we didn’t have to wait.
(Sorry to all you end credit aficionados. Unless there’s a comic book movie easter egg just sitting at the conclusion of it all, I’m outta there. Things to do, drinks to drink. You know how it is. Wish I was here.)
Wish I Was Here is now playing exclusively at Consolidated Theatres Ward 16.