Ten years ago, Zach Braff gave us “Garden State”, and all us lost twenty somethings rejoiced cause it was like he was writing about us. Plus, let’s not forget about that killer soundtrack…it made my heart was happy. Naturally, I was eagerly awaiting Zach to return to writing something again. Something that would scream to me- Hey! Let’s have another cry and giggle together. Ten years later, Zach is joined by his older brother Adam Braff (co-writer) and gives us “Wish I Was Here”, a Kickstarter funded film which he claims was his way of going back to the Garden State days. I wasn’t a backer, but if I was, I’d be asking for a refund.
In Wish I Was Here, Aiden (Braff) is a married, failing actor (failing as in, his last gig was a commercial that was eons ago) with a much too supportive (some may say enabling) wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) and is a father of teen daughter Grace (Joey King) and wild-boy 6 yr old son Tucker (Pierce Gagnon). He is angered by the many…many…MANY people telling him to support his family and give up acting, including his own father, who reveals that he has cancer. But not to worry Aiden, dad’s involved in some experimental trials and he’ll be A-Ok. Except he can’t pay for your kids to go to a fancy Jewish school anymore, so you’ll kinda have to be a parent and either get them to public school or teach them yourself (which he does by making them fix the fence and the yard and then camping in the middle of nowhere). But no, that can’t be! He has dreams! Acting! Stardom! WAHHH!
Aiden is so wrapped up in himself, he doesn’t see his wife slowly going crazy at a job she dislikes (and is suffering some serious sexual harassment that’s, you know, no big deal) just so she can support the family he has failed to help support so that he can continue to pursue his dream. As his dad enters the last moments of his life, Aiden must learn to become a better father, husband, and man, without having someone there to hold his hand.
So. Where do I begin? In truth, at first while I wasn’t thrilled about the film, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. Mandy Patinkin was fabulous (as always) As a fan of Zach Braff, I could see some moments that hit home for me, mainly when Aiden and Kate discuss how they don’t know what the hell they are doing when it comes to being parents. That right there, I realized was probably the only moment that was relateable. I walked out thinking ehhhh…. it’s not Garden State, it’s OK I guess. Then, I thought about it, about this guy named Aiden and how I would have told my friend Kate to kick him to the curb eons ago. That’s when I got angry. Wish I Was Here tries to make this jerk a hero?? Tell where this is ever true. While Aiden may be funny at times, he was not a likeable character. He was lazy, a bad dad, and spoiled rotten by his father and his wife.
That’s just the character. Bad characters can be likeable, this is true, I mean we loved Walter White and he was a meth kingpin. And Dexter? Dexter was a serial killer but tell me you weren’t rooting for his happy ending when the show ended. Aiden, yea, I just don’t care about him and the story does nothing to convince me this guy deserves our affection.
Then there’s the whole nonchalance about Kate’s sexual harassment, which even her character downplays! I mean, come on. Zach and Adam, is this how you see women? The suck up the sexual harassment, downplay it when talking about it’s seriousness, and then the tough husband punches the guy? Oh and Janine (Ashley Greene), the object of lust of Aiden’s brother Noah (Josh Gad) who only makes an appearance to be dubbed “weird” then have furry sex. Thanks for the objectification guys. Oh, and let’s talk about the “token black guy” (Donald Faison) character that you dupe into letting you take an Aston Martin out for a joy ride after telling him your daughter has the very illness your father is dying of. At the premiere, Braff even said that Faison has told him to add more black characters (you may remember Method Man in Garden State as the peeping tom hotel bell hop), so he did, for a whole 2 minutes.
Sigh. Oh, and the soundtrack? It’s OK but it won’t save this movie. Wish I Was Here opens July 11 and is rated R.