MIFF2014: Wish I Was Here

wish i was here 1So… this is pretty much what happened. Back in 2004, Zach Braff made his directorial debut Garden State, which garnered positive reviews and a cult following. Thanks to that following, he was set up a Kickstarter campaign, which enabled the fans to fund this feature,, Wish I Was Here, which is essentially a quasi-remake of his former flick. Both movies star Braff as a struggling actor/manchild dealing with daddy issues while working through a series of life adventures. Oh the soundtrack to both films is quite nifty and both features a Jim Parsons cameo. I think that pretty much sums it up. That being said, Wish I Was Here is not a bad movie. The strong acting performances and the story with a big heart does have its appeal, though it certainly lacks cult appeal like his directorial debut Garden State.

In Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff stars as Aiden Bloom, a family man/struggling actor who is still waiting for his big break in Hollywood. He has an overly supportive wife Sarah (Kate Hudson), who holds a mundane unrewarding data entry job so that her husband can chase his acting dreams at casting audtions. Meanwhile, his father Saul (Mandy Patinkin) also helps out his family by funding the Bloom children, Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) to attend a private Jewish school. Unfortunately with Saul’s deteriorating health and increasing medical costs, he is not able to fund for Grace and Tucker’s schooling anymore. This forces Aiden to face the harsh fact that he is a man in his mid-thirties who is pursuing a dream that will not likely pan out while neglecting his own family at the same time. Unsure of what to do and in possibly a quasi-mid-life crisis, Aiden tries to home school his children (to hilarious result), mend a broken relationship between his father and his brother Noah (Josh Gad), refurbish his own home and contemplate on a possible career change.

wish i was here 2There is no doubt that the primary storylines in Wish I Was Here has been explored multiple times before. Like Garden State, it deals with the whole issue of arrested development, family issues and dealing with terminal illness once again. At times it feels like a copy and paste job from ten years ago. On the plus side, there are redeeming elements to the movie. Zach Braff does have a good eye behind the camera and the shots are beautifully done. He also has a knack for good music and the “mixtape” element of his films often find a place in many people’s hearts.

The strong performances in the film certainly help carry this movie. Joey King and Pierce Gagnon are quite charming in their roles and they are perfect foils to Braff’s character. Kate Hudson is back in a role worthy of her talent after spending a good portion of her career being typecast in romantic comedies. She brings so much poise into a role as a woman with great sensitivity and resolve.

wish i was here 3Even though Wish I Was Here doesn’t really bring anything fresh to the table, the movie is quite relatable. There’s still plenty of laughter to be found in the film and it does tug on the right heartstrings at the right moments.

The final product might be somewhat of a disappointment, but it certainly had its heart in the right place. It is hard to fault on that; hence the Wish I Was Here still ends up being rather enjoyable but not as memorable as its predecessor.

Rating: B

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MIFF2014: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her

the disappearance of eleanor rigby 1It’s rather bizarre not to see a Beatles track sneak into “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”, an interesting film that looks into a deteriorating relationship from the perspective of both parties involved. This feature debut from Ned Benson is actually two films shown back to back subtitled Her and Him respectively. While the order of the presentation may vary depending on which screening you attend, the one at the Melbourne International Film Festival kicked it off with Her followed by Him. In addition to the ambitious storytelling, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is anchored by solid performances from the leads Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. In addition, the supporting characters ranging from Bill Hader’s comedic touch to Isabelle Huppert’s fun portrayal of Eleanor’s chain-smoking wine guzzling mum surely helps this film move along its lengthy runtime. Continue reading

MIFF2014: Boyhood

boyhood 1Despite not being a perfect movie, Boyhood delivers one of the most interesting cinematic experiences of the year. Filmed over twelve years, it beautifully highlights the growing pains of childhood but it is also a harrowing reminder how quickly time passes by. Continue reading

MIFF2014: Life After Beth

DSC_0255.JPGIf you thought there wasn’t much left to chew on for zombie movies, well you might be wrong there. Life After Beth is a smart zombie comedy that retains its central message while it keeps the laughter rolling throughout. The directorial debut of “I Heart Huckabees” co-writer Jeff Baena reminds us all the fact that while we enjoy a good zom-rom-com flick, the mash-up of the three genres is an awfully bizarre monster of its own. Continue reading

MIFF2014: 112 Weddings

112 weddings 1The concept for 112 Weddings is so good that I’m surprised that this hasn’t been done many times before by others out there. After spending two decades sidelining as a wedding videographer to fund his career as a filmmaker, Doug Block has revisited some of the couples he has filmed in the past to see what has become of them since their wedding day. The end result is an interesting time capsule full of love stories and a life lesson wrapped into one. Despite lacking any in-depth insights, the film is shamelessly entertaining and it has successfully invoked tears and laughter from everyone in the audience. 112 Weddings is a bittersweet portrait of modern marriage and life after the ‘happily ever after’ moment on their wedding day, but the prevailing tone is more sweet than bitter. Continue reading

MIFF2014: Web Junkie

web junkie 1With so many good films at the Melbourne International Film Festival, there is bound to be a film that would fail to ‘click’ with me. There is so much potential for this film to milk this topic of internet addiction but all it provides is a very small glimpse into a boot camp in China and the angry teens locked up inside without any insight into the social problem as a whole. Continue reading

MIFF2014: Happy Christmas + Post-Film Q&A

happy christmas 1Happy Christmas is Joe Swanberg’s most satisfying film to date. It is definitely a worthy follow-up to last year’s equally enjoyable Drinking Buddies. This film is a nice little portrait of a middle class family set during the Christmas holidays in the city of Chicago. Despite a somewhat slow start, the film beautifully highlights the angst we commonly experience in adulthood and looks into the struggle between maintaining a creative life while being a parent to a toddler. Well in this case, perhaps two toddlers. Continue reading