tek's rating:

Wish I Was Here (R)
Focus Features; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Universal; Wild Bunch; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2014, but I didn't see it until 2017. Before watching it, pretty much all I knew about it was that it had been partially financed by a Kickstarter campaign, which was launched by the film's director and co-writer, Zach Braff, who also starred in the movie. (I was vaguely aware of his acting in the TV show "Scrubs," though I never saw much of that. And 10 years before this came out, he directed and starred in the movie Garden State, which as of the time I watched this movie, I still haven't seen that one.) So, I guess for the few years that passed between this movie coming out and my seeing it, I've vaguely associated it, in a very indirect way, with the movie Veronica Mars, just because that movie had also been partly funded by a Kickstarter, which launched about a month before the Kickstarter for this movie. (Sadly, I couldn't afford to contribute to either movie's Kickstarter.) Anyway... I'm really glad I've finally seen this, because I thought it was really good. (I think I read that it's kind of seen as a spiritual successor to "Garden State," and I get the impression that some people who had ambivalent feelings about "Wish I Was Here" just thought it was treading old ground that had previously been covered by Braff's earlier movie. So maybe it's a good thing I haven't seen that yet. Then again, I expect I would have liked this movie on its own merits, in any event.)

So... Braff plays a struggling actor named Aidan Bloom, who is married to a woman named Sarah (Kate Hudson, whom I know from Almost Famous and several episodes of Glee). They have a 12-year-old daughter named Grace (Joey King) and a 6-year-old son named Tucker (the latter of whom is of no great importance to the plot). Grace and Tucker have been attending a Jewish school, at the behest of Aidan's father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), who's been paying their tuition. However, Gabe now tells Aidan he can no longer afford the school, because his cancer has returned, and he needs an expensive treatment. Aidan and Sarah can't afford to pay for the school themselves, since Aidan hasn't gotten any acting jobs lately. And he really doesn't want to send them to public school, so... Sarah convinces him to try home schooling the kids. Which he is woefully unprepared for.

And there are lots of other things going on, in the film. Aidan has a brother named Noah (Josh Gad), who despite being a genius, is a great disappointment to their father, because he hasn't done anything with his life. And Noah resents Gabe for not having been a very good father. So, there's a very strained family dynamic between the three of them. (Aidan and Noah's mother had died sometime prior to the movie, and all three of them miss her, as she was much better at parenting than Gabe.) Meanwhile, Sarah is being harassed at work, and it's a job she really doesn't like to begin with. She's just doing it to support Aidan's dream of becoming a successful actor. So naturally, in spite of believing in him, she is a bit frustrated to be shouldering the financial burden of taking care of their family more or less alone. (And Gabe also believes Aidan should give up his dream and get a real job.) Plus, Sarah hasn't really found her own passion in life, as Aidan has with acting. Meanwhile, Grace is upset about having to give up her old school, and... well, she's struggling with the normal growing pains of adolescence, which is complicated by her strong religious beliefs. (And her parents have no idea how to help with that, because they have no idea what they believe, themselves.) Meanwhile, Noah meets a woman named Janine (Ashley Greene, whom I kinda know from Twilight), who gets a rather bad first impression of him. But she designs cosplay costumes, and she's going to Comic-Con, so Noah decides to make a costume of his own, to impress her. (That particular subplot is very minor, and I wish Janine would have had a bigger role in the movie.) Oh, also I want to mention that there are a few scenes where Aidan talks to another actor at auditions (played by Jim Parsons). They don't really know each other, and his character plays a very small role in the movie, but he becomes a little bit more important later on.

Anyway... yeah, a lot of stuff going on, most of it centered around Gabe's rapidly deteriorating health, and Aidan's fruitless attempts to get Noah to visit Gabe. But of course all the different plot threads kind of affect each other, and the various characters. In a lot of ways, it's a very quirky movie, though I kind of feel like it's too serious to put my review in that category... but also funny enough not to call it a drama. So, serio-comedy it is. I really liked most of the characters, and all the acting, and all the interactions between the various characters. I just thought the interpersonal dynamics felt very real. (The best scene is probably the one with Sarah talking to Gabe alone. And there's a very good scene with Grace and Noah on the phone. And... well, there are lots of good scenes with all the characters.) And I guess I don't know what else to say.

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