“Wish I Was Here” feels like it was directed by the same person as “Garden State,” albeit an older, more mature version of that person. And it was.
Zach Braff follows up his classic indie hit 10 years later with the partly Kickstarter-funded “Wish I Was Here,” opening Friday. This time, he enlisted his brother, Adam Braff, as a co-writer, but other than that, the 2014 film has the same basic element of “Garden State”: Zach Braff.
There are some other stark similarities. It starts with a dream sequence. Then, we meet the quirky main character (played by Braff), a struggling actor who is bit lost in his life and wondering where to go next. His mother is dead, and the theme of dying parents continues with his father announcing he has a fatal diagnosis all while some old and new folk stars sing and strum guitar in the background.
And yet, it’s not too much. Perhaps the best way to describe the film would be to say it’s about how there is beauty and lessons to be learned in the mundane and everyday. Its themes are relevant to our lives and the daily struggles we all face.
This is what Braff was more or less 10 years ago, but this time, he does it with less theatrics and more sincerity.
Jim Parsons (Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”) and Ashley Greene (“Twilight”) both have small roles.
There are some cliché, eye-rolling-worthy moments in “Wish I Was Here.” It’s difficult to find any indie flick that isn’t just a little nauseating in its self-righteousness, but this one never really tips too far over that edge. The dark moments are relatable and the humor is actually pretty funny.
This is a calm, reflective film that asks the characters and viewers alike to think about things we often push to the side. What do we really want out of this life? And, what do we think happens to us after we are gone and should that influence how we live right now?
Instead of merely trying hard to be thoughtful, as was the case with “Garden State,” “Wish I Was Here” actually is that way. Maybe more filmmakers should wait until their mid-30s before trying to address some of these deeper questions. Braff certainly did a better job now than when he was in his 20s.
Wish I Was Here
Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin
Director: Zach Braff
Running time: 106 minutes
Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
The Lowdown: A man at major crossroads examines his life, career and family.