Wish I Was Here
Director: Zach Braff
Talent: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon
Release Date: 19th September 2014
What is it that compelled the general public to fund Zach Braff’s Kickstarter for a second directorial feature, to bring to bear like the Officer of Kafka’s penal colony the bladed machinery of an elaborate torture instrument against their own flesh, while the scars from 2004’s execrable Garden State had still barely yet healed? God knows. But if the Braff-device was then inscribing its banalities (“It’s hard being Zach Braff”, “I like The Shins”) onto the body public with a degree of clarity, its advanced state of disrepair ten years on has led to something far less focused and far more misguided — perhaps dangerously so — in tackling the subjects of parenthood and mortality with all the lazy abandon of one who, financially at least, knows they have nothing to lose.
Braff, a terrible actor, bears throughout the film an incongruous mask of perpetual, scrutinous condescension, as though willing every aspect of his half-baked, maudlin family drama to start making sense by the sheer power of his own disdain. Unfortunately it does not, culminating in man-child avatar Aidan Bloom quite miraculously overcoming his problems by resolving to quit acting and becoming a drama teacher despite, like the real world Braff, being himself signally unable to experience anything that might itself be considered learning or growth. Indeed, like Braff the auteur, Bloom can do nothing but inflict truly banal suffering — frustrated suffering, suffering without hope — on the characters that surround him. He can, in other words, do nothing but project the piss-weak and platitudinous quagmire of his own stupidity onto his fictional world, and in turn on the real world that begat it, that by force of e-commercial will wished his wrath upon itself.
In the end, it is unclear whether Braff’s on-screen father Gabe dies of the metastasizing cancer of the film’s fiction, or that actor Mandy Patinkin has died a real and quite literal death on camera from his exposure as primary conduit to Braff’s cosmic, transcendent philosophical idiocy, like a lightning rod in a storm.
Words: Oisín Murphy-Hall