Even Zach Braff, who had a very successful first independent film "Garden State", had problems getting another movie financed. So, instead of bending to the restrictions of the money guys, Braff and his producers, Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, turned to Kickstarter to fund the project --- and very successfully.
Written by Braff and his brother Adam, "Wish I Was Here" is an intimate look at family, parenting issues and children. Braff enlisted Kate Hudson, a long-time friend, to play his wife Sarah in the film.
Sarah is the one who holds everyone together while Aidan (Braff) is free to pursue his dream of acting. Unfortunately, Aidan hasn't been working much, and when his father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) becomes gravely ill and can no longer pay the Jewish school tuition for Sarah and Aidan's two children, Aidan decides to home school them.
"Wish I Was Here" is a valiant second effort by Braff, but it falls short of "Garden State". It wants so badly to be profound, and while it is extremely touching and moving on some levels, on others it misfires completely.
The children, Grace and Tucker, played by Joey King and Pierce Gagnon, are exceptional, with not a hint of schmaltz on either's part. But, in defiance of being pulled out of her beloved Hebrew school, Grace shaves her head, something she has learned some Jewish women do after they are married. Though I found that scene refreshing, when Aidan takes her to buy a wig and she chooses a shocking pink topper, that, to me, rang very false.
Patinkin gives an admirable performance as the absent father now trying to atone for his sins. He and Hudson have an incredibly tearful moment that will resonate with many parents and adult children in the audience.
And though I adore Braff, his portrayal of Aidan --- along with the character's dialogue --- is all over the place. One time he's sincere and believable, like the scene in which he gives salient advice to Jim Parson's character, then other times where he's over-the-top when trying to get out of explaining why he can't pay his children's tuition.
Though I enjoyed "Wish I Was Here" way more than David, it does have its faults. But, it has a certain appeal --- for that I am happy for Zach Braff.
Opinion: Wait for DVD