REVIEW: Wish I Was Here

16 07 2014

Wish I Was HereZach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” caught a lot of flak for raising additional funds through crowdfunding on Kickstarter, so I found myself watching the film with an especially sharp eye on how the budget was being spent.  My friend and I found ourselves, perhaps cynically, coming to the conclusion that Braff was using the fans’ money on less necessary frills like a Maserati or the sporadic CGI-heavy sci-fi reveries.

Yet if these somewhat excessive flourishes are what it takes to get an otherwise deeply felt movie like this made, I will make that trade-off every day of the week.  “Wish I Was Here” is an uncommonly thoughtful dramedy about life and death, a breed of film that has sadly become an endangered species.  What Braff crafts is something akin to a Woody Allen film scored to the Bon Iver Pandora station.

That’s not to say, however, that Braff has quite the effortless mastery of Allen’s best.  He doesn’t quite grasp the often tricky economy of ensemble comedy, bungling subplots involving Josh Gad and Kate Hudson.  And at times, the film gets a little bit uncomely in its wild fluctuations of tone.

But even so, “Wish I Was Here” is rather endearing.  Its brand of messy is a lifelike one, not a lazy or sloppy filmmaking one.  Braff throws everything he’s got against the wall – I like to believe it’s everything he’s been thinking in the decade since “Garden State” – and not all of it hits.  What does stick, though, teems with such raw and poignant emotion that it’s easy to overlook the film’s faults.

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