Thursday, July 31, 2014

[Review] Wish I Was Here

10 years later, Zach Braff follows up his directorial debut, Garden State, with another dramedy called Wish I Was Here. It's uneven in its terrain, but the wonderful moments outweigh the bad ones. The film has a rocky beginning that might induce a few cringes, but it gradually delivers some powerful upswings and eventually rises to greatness.

Aidan (Braff) is a struggling actor and he's kind of an unlikable jerk at first. His supportive wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) provides for the family. Their daughter and son go to a private Hebrew school, which one loves it and the other hates. When Aidan learns that his father (Mandy Patinkin) is dying of cancer, he leaps into some soul-searching and takes the path to make amends. The narrative meanders quite a bit, but not nearly as much as, say, last year's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's also a lot more grounded.

One of the film's finest traits is the gorgeous cinematography, capturing a mix of sunny California scenery, along with some whimsy imagery (purple wigs, goggles, floating contact lenses, fish bowl astronaut helmets...). And while the script is wildly hit-and-miss, the solid scenes, as well as the funny and smart lines of dialogue, outnumber the ones that come up limp or sleazy. The backbone of the story deals with dreams, self-discovery, and familial dynamics in the face of death. It all leads to a genuinely heartfelt conclusion (the woman in the theater sitting in front of me was a blubbering mess at the end).

The script also does a nice job in developing each of the characters beyond stock supporters, and the performances are fantastic. Joey King as Aidan's daughter is a standout (just as she was in the first season of the Fargo TV series). Braff cruises, but gets better and rangier as it goes along. Mandy Patinkin is stoic yet emotional with small facial expressions, spending most of his time looking up from a hospital bed. And Kate Hudson gives her best performance in God knows how many years.

Wish I Was Here is one to stick with. Despite its flaws, and the fact that sometimes it just feels like a revamped Garden State, it's an ultimately rewarding journey.


1 comment:

  1. I thought Garden State was decent, and was elevated slightly due to the soundtrack. Without having seen Wish I Was Here, I get the same vibe. Perhaps a rental. Kate Hudson kind of fell off the map, hope this is the start of her comeback.