10/10/14

Wish I Was Here . . .

Years ago, I spent the fall on the sofa of a good friend in Connecticut. My (then) wife and (still) daughter had already moved to Wichita and I was job hunting and just needed a place to stay. I suspect that my awkward situation was her relief. She was unemployed and, frankly, seemed a bit bummed out and disenchanted with things.

I slept on her couch for two FULL months (to the day-ish). We had many adventures and spent a lot of time together and one thing she introduced me to was the TV show Scrubs. I was aware of the show (sorta) and Zach Braff - mainly from Garden State. I didn't know much about him. He seemed like an eternal child and I was not sure if his humor was something I would dig but, frankly, my friend insisted so I checked it out. To her surprise I didn't love it but ONE episode stuck out for me. "My Screw Up".

I won't get in to the plot line (ain't you got no Google?) but I will say that it showed a charming, emotional, cheesy side to Braff that that I DID love (despite the presumptions and my public demeanor I am - as recently described "a malt ball" that is "a thin, hard shell around a lot of soft, delicate, and surprising stuff that joins for an acquired taste and can lead to obesity and death" (that's a quote)). I digress. Zach Braff . . .

Fast forward seven years (or a few weeks later) and my life is a very different place - as is Zach Braff's. We're older. We're grumpier. We're still holding on to something and still hoping things will be perfect someday. We're equally charming and handsome yet a little more angsty. We're both doing the best we can and we both have our critics and fans (him on a much larger, MUCH more public scale).

I work in middle management of the marketing department of a hospitality company. Braff, who I think is sorta underrated comedically, hangs out in Hollywood and took to Kickstarter to make a movie about life and marriage and parenting and the journey, dreams, frustrations, moments of awe, and all the other arcs that come with it . . . enter "Wish I Was Here".



The plot summary is (loosely) in the trailer above but what the trailer doesn't show enough (as I related to the movie) is just how much otherwise-suffocating pressure Braff's Aidan Bloom feels. His father is dying, his brother is a mess, his wife is being harassed at work, his daughter is so very focused on faith and the eternal that she misses the forest and the trees of now and his son is, well, terrifically boyish.

ALL that pressure leaves Bloom doing just one thing . . . chasing his dream (of being an actor), running from reality (and a space man that keeps re-appearing) and saying the same, (admittedly by the end of the film) tired line that we all think we're going to be people that save the world when, really, we are the ones that need saving.

I presume he means we ALL think we will save but end out needing the saving. For the Bloom family - salvation is had (including for the flagging father, played wonderfully by the mensch Mandy Patinkin, I suppose) and the 90% of the film spent having it all fall apart is tied back together in a 10% montage that leaves you groaning with regret for how magical the bow on the package really is and how much you believe in it.

Make no mistake . . . Wish I Was Here is cheesy. It is trite. It is formulaic in many ways. It is cliche. It feels like it was made on a small budget (not a bad thing, here). It is not ideally cast (Kate Hudson is not my favorite - she is less than her "average" in this one). It is a little sloppy in some parts.

That being said - it has its moments. Scenes between Braff and his eccentric brother (played by Josh Gad - who I suddenly want to be in every movie that needs a schlubby antagonist) are rich and remind me of my relationship with my brothers (respect, love, a little confusion, some eye rolls). The "swear jar" and all it symbolism (a little suffering for our weaknesses today will be the strength and opportunity of tomorrow) weighed on me. Braff's struggle with his Jewish faith were really well handled (there is reverence in his spite) and reminded me of my struggles with the Catholic Church.

"Wish I Was Here" is perfect for what I wanted it to be . . . something that made me laugh (many, many times) and cry (many, many times). It was like therapy in a room that smelled of buttered popcorn and without the pressure of eventually having to double back on how/why it makes me "feel".

You have missed this one if you've not already seen it but fear not - the digital/DVD/pirated versions of the movie are coming soon and I could not suggest, more, that you give it two hours. You may hate it. You may love it. But, you will likely appreciate what Braff did with this pet project and like a sofa to sleep on and a friend that needs you on that couch . . . sometimes things just sort of have their own benefits.

Wish I Was Here is my FAVORITE movie (so far) of 2014. Also - much like Scrubs and Garden State - fantastic soundtrack.