Editor’s note: Our “Double Exposure” reviews pit two or more critics against one another on the same film to hash out their differences in opinion. Agree with what we have to say or want to offer your own take? Leave it in the comments below.
“Wish I Was Here” stars Zach Braff as Aidan – a thirty-something actor supported by his wife’s (Kate Hudson) salary and struggling to make ends meet in L.A. while caring for his highly religious daughter (Joey King) and lazy son (Pierce Gagnon). When Aidan’s father (Mandy Patinkin) is hospitalized for aggressive cancer treatment, he reevaluates his family, childhood, and career.
Taylor Sinople: So, I had heard people weren’t responding to it very well, certainly not like “Garden State,” but I was still surprised to find myself so at odds with a film that seems so stacked for success. A lot of what made “Garden State” a remarkable debut film is in place here, too: a failing actor searching for a direction in life, quirky, black comedy, and a phenomenal indie soundtrack (Shins to Dylan), yet little resonates. Director Zach Braff and co-writer/brother Adam J. Braff have a sort-of plot figured out, but the thematic structure is in complete disarray. A fantasy CGI sequence opens the film along with a monologue about wanting to be a hero but accepting being normal. Then, a family drama about a dying patriarch with excessive diversions into Jewish faith. The hero idea returns vaguely in the third act, but it’s not nearly sharp enough to function as the crux of the story.
Taylor: The two things that stuck out to me the most as unnecessary and uninteresting are Braff’s insistence on incorporating a multitude of scenes taking place at a Hebrew school and at a temple, and the would-be through-line of the hero fantasy sequences. Diving into his reluctance to embrace faith at an older age is something that could work with this film, but were those scenes not used almost exclusively for repetitious “look at how funny these Jews are” comedy? Then, the CGI sequences with Aidan running around in a superhero suit – those little scenes are so broadly sketched and imprecise that they fail to put a pin down on any one thematic message. Yet Braff builds them as endcaps to the entire movie! I see most of the scenes of the entire film as departure stations. It sets them loose – the idea of a failing actor fantasizing about being a hero, the idea of an absurdly song-based Hebrew school, but the tracks don’t run to any particular destination and the movie ends with them still floating away out there, terribly undelivered upon.
July 18, 2014 (limited)
2 hr. 0 min.
Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Mandy Patinkin, Jim Parsons, Alexander Chaplin, Ashley Greene, Josh Gad, Allan Rich