Wish I Was Here
This is one of those overlooked films that answers the question, “Is there anything worth a damn playing in the theater?”
Wish I Was Here joins Begin Again as the two legitimate hits of the 2014 summer season. Directed by Zach Braff, the film provides an utterly delightful mixture of humor and pathos that you simply can’t miss.
Here, Mr. Braff plays Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor in Hollywood searching for any type of movie or TV role. He lives with his wife, Sarah, and two young children, and they all have to rely on mom’s boring technical job to support the family. On top of that, the entire family embraces cursing as an art form, and seldom have you ever seen it used where you quickly end up laughing at that which you would normally condemn.
Kate Hudson plays his wife, and as an actress she has been lost in cinematic space for some time. Here, however, she is sensational as a quiet woman tolerating sexual abuse at her job in the name of family solvency.
The children are played by Pierce Gagnon and Joey King, and they are genuinely funny. Ms. King, only 14, has proven her worth in films like last year’s otherwise forgettable White House Down and the intriguing horror film, The Conjuring. On top of that, in her purple wig. she is the spitting image of Chloe Grace Moretz in the Kick-Ass movies (2011 and 2013).
When Aidan’s father, Gabe, played lovingly by Mandy Patinkin, shocks everyone with the news that he is dying of cancer, the Bloom family is thrown into chaos. Forced to remove their kids from a private Jewish school because Gabe had been paying for it, Aidan decides to fill his free time by home schooling his children. That disaster quickly goes nowhere, as mom discovers when she comes home and finds the kids duct taped to a chair, soundly sleeping, as a boring educational program appears on the home TV.
I must note that nearly all of the humor in this film centers on Jewish themes, something that will delight all of my Jewish friends. Or at least the cynical ones. As an example, Aidan confronts an aging rabbi for advice, and I will paraphrase the exchange:
Aidan: Doesn’t God want everyone to be happy?
Rabbi: No! If you want happiness read our Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson cared about happiness, not God. God wants you to care for your family.
In the end, this film is about just that, rediscovering the meaning of family. Aidan and his goofy, eccentric brother, Noah, played with wonderful unrestrained joy by Josh Gad, find a way to reconnect with their dying father, and it’s hard to imagine that you won’t be fighting back tears as Sarah did watching that moment.
Much like he did with Garden State (2004), Mr. Braff has brought us a film that shows us how to find joy in a confused life. Are you curious if I add that you will again hear Paul Simon sing “Obvious Child” as you did in my recently reviewed film of the same name?