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The Films of Zach Braff

Garden State

Wish I Was Here (July 20/14)

Zach Braff's first film in 10 years, Wish I Was Here follows struggling actor Aidan Bloom (Braff) as he's forced to reevaluate his choices after his father (Mandy Patinkin's Gabe) falls ill - with the film detailing the impact that Aidan's midlife crisis has on the various folks in his life, including his wife (Kate Hudson's Sarah), brother (Josh Gad's Noah), and two children (Joey King's Grace and Pierce Gagnon's Tucker). There's a familiarity to the material that's especially pronounced in the movie's opening half hour, as writer/director Braff stresses Aidan's myriad of problems at home - with Braff's decision to emphasize certain less-than-engrossing elements perpetuating the movie's watchable yet far-from-stellar atmosphere (ie it's difficult, for example, to work up much interest in or enthusiasm for Grace and Tucker's continuing school-related difficulties). Wish I Was Here seems, in its early stages, to be lacking the personal touch that made Garden State so memorable and distinctive, and it's not until Braff shifts the focus to both his and Patinkin's respective characters that the movie becomes the engrossing, heartfelt drama one might've hoped for. (This is not to say that the latter half of Wish I Was Here is devoid of missteps, as Braff offers up a few underwhelming subplots that could and should have been excised (ie it's hard to see the value in most of the stuff involving Gad's prototypically off-kilter figure).) The film is ultimately at its best when devoted to the father/son relationship between Aidan and Gabe, with the poignant, emotionally-charged nature of these scenes ensuring that Wish I Was Here packs a potent punch in its final stretch - which finally does cement the movie's place as an uneven yet stirring sophomore effort for Braff.

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