The definitive takedown of Zach Braff's new movie has already been written: On the website Badass Digest, Devin Faraci wrote that Braff's work is "aimed directly at the suburban lizard brains of slightly disaffected honkies who will never know true trouble, just the nagging sense that things should be easier for them than they already are."
This is accurate.
Wish I Was Here offers a case study in what happens when a super famous and rich celebrity tries to make a movie about Regular People. Braff stars as Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor with a beautiful wife and two adorable children. Aiden's got "problems": Work is slow and his dad is dying of one of those bloodless-but-efficient movie cancers, the worst consequence of which appears to be that he'll no longer be able to foot the bills for his grandkids' private school. Quelle frigging horreur. (If the prospect of two white kids having to attend public school in Los Angeles doesn't seem like that big of a deal to you, congratulations—you're not horrible.)
Cue some "hilarious" scenes of Aidan home schooling his kids, a weird detour into his wife's office for a hard-hitting look at sexual harassment in the workplace (?), and a lot of halfhearted mumbling about what happens after you die. At one point, Aidan squints at some bills as though he has literally never seen anything like them before. Later, he takes his kids deep into the desert to explain what an epiphany is.
Wish I Was Here believes deeply in its own relatability: Everyone deals with illness and death, with money and work troubles, right? But authority on these subjects comes from the details, and from realistic characters responding in grounded ways. Wish I Was Here doesn't have those things. Instead, it has Aidan cleaning out his swimming pool as the first step in getting his life back on track. Right. The ol' dirty swimming pool metaphor. Who can't relate?
Wish I Was Here
dir. Zach Braff