Film Review: Wish I Was Here

Written by Mallory Delchamp

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Like most twenty-somethings, Garden State, the 2004 indie film written, directed and starring Zach Braff, was the cinematic highlight of my high school years. Between the killer soundtrack and Natalie Portman’s charming performance, the film remains to this day one of my personal favorites. Wish I Was Here, Braff’s latest cinematic endeavor is equally as memorable and captivating as its predecessor.

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Written by both Braff and his brother, Adam, the film follows an out-of-work actor named Aidan Bloom who is juggling his father’s battle with cancer, providing for his family, maintaining a civil relationship with his antisocial brother and searching for his own personal sense of purpose and understanding. Though the film is chock full of quirky comedic moments, it is also heartfelt and thought-provoking. Upon first glance the film seems like a typical dark comedy (and it is), but it is more importantly a story of family and the importance of maintaining relationships. Wish I Was Here, alternates between comedy and drama within mere minutes, is a beautiful mixture of hilarious one-liners, dramatic irony, and musical montages and yet it doesn’t loose its focus.

The cast of Wish I Was Here has to be talked about. Zach Braff stars in the film as Aidan, a character fairly similar to Braff’s character in both Garden State and Scrubs. Kate Hudson portrays Braff’s wife, Sarah — the breadwinner of the family who supports her husband’s dream of acting. Hudson manages to bring sex appeal to the not-so-sexy, motherly role and has several poignant moments with her various cast members. Mandy Patinkin shines as Aiden’s uptight Jewish father, Gabe, who strives to amend his turbulent relationship with his two sons, but that comes to no surprise. Josh Gad, though a fairly minor character in the film, successfully portrays Braff’s nerdy brother, Noah, who attempts to impress Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) with his impressive comic book knowledge. The most memorable performances in the film, however, come from the two youngest cast members, Pierce Gagnon and Joey King. King portrays Grace, Aiden’s conservative and spiritual daughter and Gagnon plays the lovable young son, Tucker. Gagnon and King play well off of each other and manage to steal the scene each time they are on camera. Joey King could easily rival other young actresses in Hollywood with her character’s monologue about losing her grandfather in the latter part of the film.

Braff not only manages to write, direct, and star in Wish I Was Here but he also manages to create a wonderful soundtrack featuring The Shins, Bon Iver, and Bob Dylan. The music enhances the film but doesn’t overshadow it or distract from the narrative. Cat Power and Coldplay also collaborated on the film’s title song and it is certainly worth listening to.

Bottom Line: Wish I Was Here isn’t for everyone. If you weren’t a fan of Garden State you may not enjoy Braff’s second heart-tugging dark comedy. However, if you still find yourself listening to Frou Frou’s “Let Go” and mimicking Portman’s ridiculous hand movements, you are in for a treat.

all images credit: focus features

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Mallory Delchamp is a writer, model, and performer living in Manhattan. You can routinely read her film and music reviews here on Pop-Break and you can also check out her work on zumic.com and nytheatreguide.com. A social media and pop culture enthusiast, Mallory also enjoys musical theatre, superhero films, and drinking coffee. You can visit Mallory at her website, www.mallorydelchamp.com

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