Last week, I tried to go see Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded film Wish I Was Here. I was just trying to have a good time. Instead, the film was so irritating and self-centered that I walked out halfway through. When I wrote about why I walked out, a chorus of people told me that I was being ridiculous. People said I wasn’t being fair to Zach Braff. They said that the film really turns around in the second half and points out that the male protagonist has been absurdly selfish.
So I did it. I went back to the theater. At your request, I sat through the entire 106-minute duration of Wish I Was Here. Along with exactly 10 other people in the theater, I watched the whole Braff-stravaganza.
Spoiler alert: It was not good.
Let me just recap by saying that I actually wanted this film to be good. Like I said, I am not ashamed to admit that I like Garden State. I like The Shins. I can appreciate spending a hot afternoon just watching a fun, sentimental movie.
But as a narrative, Wish I Was Here needs a lot of work. Zach Braff plays Aidan, a self-centered, 35-year-old father who wants to follow his dreams, while Kate Hudson plays his wife Sarah. Together they parent two gratingly quirky children.
My biggest complaint with Wish I Was Here is that the film—co-written by Braff and his brother—includes many plotlines and moments that are simply uninteresting because viewers aren’t invested enough in the characters to care about what happens to them. I found myself with more questions than empathy as Aidan’s brother Noah walked through Comic-Con or while Sarah talked to Aidan’s father about her sister. Braff skims the surface with his characters—such as Ashley Greene’s character Janine—and we don’t learn enough about them. It feels like Janine exists, for example, only as a way to tell us something about Noah: specifically that Noah isn’t so weird that women won’t have sex with him. Sarah, too, mostly just supports Aidan’s storyline—it feels like the story only spends time on her to teach us things about Aidan. Time from the cheesy CGI animation interruptions could have been used to give more depth to these central characters.
Josh Gad plays Noah Bloom, who would maybe be an interesting character in another film.
But one of the worst thing about sitting through the duration of Wish I Was Here was that very little actually happened. Sure, Sarah is harassed at work and reports it. And Aidan and Sarah have an oddly embarassing make-out scene in their laundry room. Eventually, Aidan’s father dies. But this movie lacks momentum that would keep viewers like me engaged in the story. It doesn’t feel like there’s any real change in the characters, they just go about their mundane everyday activities, such as fixing a fence or cleaning a pool, which offer little in terms of dialogue and feel like they’re solely in the film for the purpose of watching Aidan swoon over his children alongside a Best of Indie Music 2013-driven montage. If you want to see a good movie about a family learning about themselves while they perform mundane activities, save your money and go watch Boyhood.
By the end of the film, I felt like Wish I Was Here was trying to spoonfeed the audience hipster wisdom. What are the messages in the end? That swear jar money buys happiness? That those who can’t do must teach? That if your wife is harassed at work, you must save her? That everyone really should Just Be Themselves and learn to be happy? Wish I Was Here did not break barriers or say anything new about happiness. Underneath the lilting voice of Bon Iver is still the privileged dude who finds a job, sues his wife’s business, rarely thinks beyond his own interests, and victoriously puts his kids in a better school.
Related Reading: Why I Walked Out Halfway Through the New Zach Braff Movie.
Lucy Vernasco is Bitch’s new media intern. She recently wrote the article “Seven Studies that Prove Mansplaining Exists.”