Review Roundup - 'Garden State's Zach Braff Still Searching for Life's Purpose in WISH I WAS HERE
Zach Braff's second directorial feature, Wish I Was Here has a limited release today in New York and Los Angeles. The film will open nationwide on August 1.
WISH I WAS HERE follows Aidan Bloom, a 35-year-old struggling actor, father, and husband, is still trying to find purpose in his life. In coming to terms with the death of his father, Aidan and his family unite to discover how to turn the page onto the next chapter.
The cast includes Zach Braff (currently starring in Broadway's 'Bullets Over Broadway'), Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Joey King. Originally launched as a Kickstarter campaign, Wish I Was Here will offer advance screenings to backers in their local markets.
Let's see what the critics have to say:
Matt Tamanini, BroadwayWorld: Themes of family, following your dreams, disappointment, and identity are, by no means, unfamiliar territory for films, especially those of the independent variety, but Braff handles these topics with such honesty and respect, that it all feels slightly revolutionary.
Stephen Holden, The New York Times': Wish I Was Here is so eager to please that you are never allowed to feel uncomfortable for more than a minute or two before a reassuringly stale joke rushes in to pat you on the head. ... Patinkin's performance helps make Wish I Was Here, with all its weaknesses, a far more persuasive and heartfelt portrait of death and dying than the recent Lullaby, which drowned in its own tears. But that's not saying much."
Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter: Braff essentially plays Aidan like a grown-up Large, from Garden State, which is fine, and he's again surrounded himself with a wonderful cast of actors. Hudson, though in a supporting role, might be doing her best work since Almost Famous... her hospital scene with [Mandy] Patinkin is a true heartbreaker that showcases the capacity of both actors to suggest wells of unspoken emotion and years of pain and frustration as well as love."
Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post: "Wish I Was Here" touches on some timely themes and does so with an artistic vulnerability. You have to hand it to Braff. For a guy who must feel unfairly targeted, he doesn't shy from being who he is and making, essentially, a grown-up version of "Garden State."
Scott Foundas, Variety: In its broad strokes and more than a few specific details, "Wish I Was Here" recalls Judd Apatow's recent "This Is 40," another au courant snapshot of L.A. entertainment-industry types trying to rekindle the spark in their marriage while coping with a sagging economy, aging parents and demanding children. But where nearly everything in Apatow's film felt messy and lived-in and true (no matter those who accused it of bourgeois hand-wringing), Braff's movie (co-written by the director and his brother, Adam) rarely seems more than a strained sitcom minus only the laugh track.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture: Braff isn't the first filmmaker to rely a little too hard on the thoughtful-dialogue-exchange-followed-by-soft-piano-or-guitar school of directing, but he might be the first to inadvertently turn it into a drinking game. Just as sure as the Who used to kick in every time David Caruso uttered a one-liner on CSI: Miami, some moody bit of pop punctuates each and every one ofWish I Was Here's many nuggets of bite-size wisdom.
Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times: The story is wildly disjointed, cramming together thematic notions about parenting, family, male maturity and Jewish identity - any of which would have made for a better movie if more deeply explored. Yet Wish I Was Here doesn't feel overstuffed as if bursting with ideas, rather it fells entirely underdeveloped, limp and lacking a solid core."
Ty Burr, Boston Globe': Wish I Was Here repels through a combination of flippant dialogue, awkward emotional manipulation, heavy-handed symbolism (including that all-purpose SoCal metaphor, the swimming pool), and Braff's belief that he's saying anything new or profound here."
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: The movie is everything but funny or interesting. The actors, particularly Patinkin and Gad, bring their own funny-and-interesting to the project, but the way Braff lards the pathos with squishy folk-rock undermines his own attempts at honest communication."