Thinking ‘Wish I Was Here’
Ashley Jo Will
Last year, Zach Braff launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to help him create the movie he wanted. On May 24, 2013, the campaign for “Wish I Was Here” was successful by the power of 46,520 backers with $3,105,473 pledged of a $2,000,000 goal. I was one of those backers; I pledged $20 and will receive the perk of being one of the first people to receive the soundtrack. I know that Zach Braff didn’t need my money specifically, but it feels special to be a part of something and knowing that I contributed in a small way. Zach Braff has worn many hats such as actor, producer, director and writer. He is probably best known as the character named J.D. on the long-running television show “Scrubs”, my favorite series. Ten years ago, Zach Braff premiered the film “Garden State” at the Sundance Film Festival, which he wrote, directed and starred in.
Now ten years later, at the Sundance Film Festival Zach Braff premieres his second film that he directs, writes, produces and stars in: “Wish I Was Here.” Since I was a backer and have been reading the film’s Kickstarter updates, there was no film I desired to see more than “Wish I Was Here” at the Sundance Film Festival. With the generosity of a previous co-worker, I was able to obtain tickets to one of the three screenings of “Wish I Was Here” during the Sundance Film Festival. I did not expect Zach Braff to make an appearance during the screening I attended for a few reasons such as I knew he already attended the premiere, this screening was in Salt Lake City and some movie stars don’t like leaving Park City where most of the festival activity takes place, and I also knew my favorite actor was on a plane that particular day arriving from New York City with no known time of arrival. Fortunately, my assumption was wrong because Adam Braff, who co-wrote “Wish I Was Here” introduced the film and told the audience that his brother Zach Braff would be on stage afterward for questions and answers. With this news, I became ecstatic and soon began one of the best nights of my life.
Zach Braff plays Aidan Bloom, who is an actor. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much luck gaining roles in anything besides a dandruff commercial and a telephone commercial. Yet Aidan continues to pursue his acting aspirations while his wife Sarah works full time. Aidan is under the impression that Sarah fully supports his endeavor but it is clear that Sarah isn’t happy with her data entry job. Sarah and Aidan have two children: a daughter named Grace and a son named Tucker. Grace and Tucker are able to attend a private Jewish school because Aidan’s father pays for the tuition. When payment is past due, Aidan questions his father about the missing funds. Aidan’s father explains that his cancer has returned. As a last resort, Aidan’s father is trying an expensive experimental treatment and chooses a chance to extend his life over paying for the education of his grandchildren. With no way to pay for the private school, Aidan chooses to attempt home-schooling Grace and Tucker for a semester so that they do not have to enter a public school in the middle of the year. Grace laments leaving the Jewish school and has a difficult time being taken away from her conservative school. Comedy ensues as Aidan tries to control his two children and teach them subjects when it is soon apparent his daughter knows much more about geometry than he does.
Meanwhile, Sarah is being harassed by her coworker in her cubicle and she questions why she is working constantly while her husband is pursuing his dream. Aidan has a brother who lives in a trailer and he doesn’t seem to be doing anything worthwhile with his life although he is said to be a genius. Aidan’s father appears to be disappointed in both of his children. Yet Aidan and his brother must have the courage to face their father to say goodbye and to forgive him for any hurt he has caused. The scenes capturing a dying father interacting with his sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are quite emotional and may make audience members tears up like my friend sitting next to me during the “Wish I Was Here” screening we attended. Throughout the film, Aidan struggles with responsibility as he wishes he was elsewhere. Perhaps the word “here” mentioned in the title is an imagined future state of Aidan’s life when he is a successful actor able to provide for his family. Thinking “… wish I was here …” is something most people say to themselves for various reasons. Aidan is often daydreaming that he is a futuristic knight in a spacesuit with a robot sidekick. The film opens with one of these sequences and the film sometimes transitions to Aidan in this fantastical setting, often when he is struggling with a situation in reality such as his father dying. With a mixture of comedy and drama, “Wish I Was Here” deals with issues many middle-age people can relate to such as a desire to follow dreams, taking care of family, reconciling with a parent, making sacrifices in a marriage, and struggling with your own sense of spirituality rather than merely following the religion of your parents. I cannot tell you when you will be able to see “Wish I Was Here” but I do know that at the Sundance Film Festival, Focus Features became the distributor of this film for the United States and Canada. If you like Zach Braff and quirky comedies that contain emotional drama as well, keep “Wish I Was Here” on your radar until you are able to see it for yourself.