Zach Braff's new film Wish I Was Here debuts at Sundance - review
Sundance Film Festival: Braff is still a master at combining the hard facts of life with humour, but he moves into mawkishness in the last act
Monday 20 January 2014
Back in January 2004, when Zach Braff premiered his last film Garden State at Sundance, the world was a different place. Facebook had not yet been founded. Peter Andre was a pop star. Miley Cyrus was not. Deep seismic shifts may have occurred in pop culture, but with Wish I Was Here Braff shows how little has changed for him: he’s still staring into the great nothing, puzzling out the big questions of life.
Just as Garden State spoke to the youth it was written for, Braff, now 38, wrote this for his own frazzled generation: the age group who are neither young nor old, wondering if it’s time to give up on their dreams. Set in Los Angeles, where Braff has worked all his adult life, he plays Aidan Bloom, a never-got-started actor.
His wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) loyally inputs data, Chandler Bing-style, so he can pursue his path. But when Aidan’s father is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the Blooms have to pull their two children from their private Hebrew school for an experiment in home schooling. Add Josh Gad as Aidan’s Comic-Con obsessed, internet-trolling brother, and it’s clear that Wish I Was Here doesn’t just merit the hashtag #firstworldproblems but #onlyincalifornia as well.
Death, to Braff, is the great shifter of the living. Andrew’s mother was killed off in the first frame of Garden State, and now the impending end of Aidan’s father means that his son must confront adulthood. Just how hard this will be for a man who still daydreams he’s a spaceman (cue Braff in more latex than during his tenure on Scrubs) is evident in the amount of universalisms he has to be told.
From ‘forward is the only direction God wants us to go in” to ‘the bravest thing we’ll have to do in life is face the end of it ” Aidan is force fed wisdom, but he seems to move forward the most when he and the kids blag their way into test-driving an Aston Martin. Driving a convertible down the Pacific Coast Highway: surely one of the greatest ways for a man to still feel alive.
Braff is still a master at combining the hard facts of life with humour, but he moves into mawkishness in the last act, which will drive his critics to distraction. Always provoking a Marmite-like reaction, the director has been scorned for getting the $5million to fund the film from Kickstarter. Focus Features immediately bought ‘Wish I Was Here’ after its premiere, perhaps proving his detractors’ point: he’s no longer an independent film director.
Yet Zach Braff is one of the few able to package the muddled mess of being a man for a mainstream audience. At one point, Aidan says, “we can all get stuck for a chapter and it’s hard to shift.”
Whatever kept Braff stuck from directing for ten years, it’s a welcome return. And everyone’s looking forward to the movie about a mid-life crisis in 2024.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Alex Salmond: 'The rocks would melt with the sun before I'd ever set foot in the House of Lords'
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Doctor Who, Time Heist, review: Keeley Hawes is marvellous but the Doctor is the real villain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God