When it isn’t trying to be profound or reaching for metaphor and goofy Spike Jonze style photography, “Wish I Was Here” ends up being a pretty interesting family melodrama. It’s not by any means Braff’s masterpiece. I think we’re a long way from ever seeing one. Here he repeats the same beats of his former indie drama “Garden State,” ad nauseum. He’s either intent on reminding people why the aforementioned was so good, or he’s bereft of offering anything new. There’s Jim Parsons, a fractured relationship with a father figure, the ghost of a dead mother, Braff’s character is an actor, and there be plenty ‘o montages set to indie rock music.
Braff also is a big fan of coming of age clichés, including a sequence involving the characters driving a fancy car, and the whole metaphor of a character taking a plunge in to water. Aidan Bloom is a struggling actor who is finding getting menial acting jobs tougher with the broader demand for roles in the town. The pressure for a job becomes more intense when his father, who funds his children’s Jewish Day School, refuses to pay for their education since his remission has ended, and his cancer is now terminal. Aidan now scrambles to find a way to school his children, all the while teaching them about life before his resentful father eventually passes away.
Braff loves his indie clichés, and it’s all for the sake of a narrative about a very selfish individual who becomes less selfish by the end of the film. When we depart from him, he’s still very selfish, but at least not despicable. Braff plays a character so self centered he can barely focus on his father’s ailing health in the face of terminal cancer, because his dreams of being an actor. His family is looking at the face of poverty but he can’t bear to get a nine to five job because his dreams of being an actor. Don’t you hate when the world asks you to be responsible and consider your children and wife? Damn freeloaders.
Kate Hudson’s performance is surprisingly restrained and bearable as Aidan’s long suffering wife who endures a terrible office job to support her family, and begins thinking about her own unfulfilled dreams. Joey King is also very charming actress who plays off of Braff well as his strictly Orthodox Jewish daughter hell bent on sticking true to her religious faith in the face of an unstable household. Especially in the face of Aidan’s incessant whining about how no one supports his dreams to become an actor. “Wish I Was Here” is sixty percent hipster indie art house junk, and forty percent actual substance that’s worth watching. When it’s not reminding us about why we liked the superior “Garden State,” it’s a watchable if mediocre melodrama with entertaining quirks.