Wish I Was Here follows an down-on-his-luck actor, Aidan (Zach Braff), who must learn to homeschool his two children after his father falls ill and stops paying their private school tuition. Frustrated with his inability to succeed as an actor, he struggles to grow closer to his family while figuring out what makes him happy. His son, a hyper-energetic slacker and his daughter, a bright student who clings to Jewish tradition that her family doesn’t understand, both test him in new was as he struggles to connect with them.
This movie has a really great cast. Josh Gad, Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, and Joey King all give really great performances, there’s just something missing. I don’t quite know what it is. The tone can be a little jarring at times amping from comedy to super intense moments but mostly wavering between the middle of both: just medium moments.
I feels like the biggest detraction here are the multitude of unnecessary story lines. All the weird side plots drastically detract from the central storyline of a man dealing with the looming death of his father and trying his best to be a good father, too. Why do they shove in a sexual harassment storyline with Kate Hudson’s character? Or why do they have a whole storyline with Josh Gad’s character trying to woo his neighbor at ComicCon? It’s just too much and it shifts off focus so many times that it’s hard to keep the central story together.
However, when the quiet scenes and sincere moments are great. Scenes where everything slows down and characters get to just talk to each other pack a really hard emotional punch. There’s one moment with Mandy Patinkin and Kate Hudson that literally made me tear up a bit. Actually any time Patinkin talked in the repentant stage of his illness made me literally cry. He delivers a really great performance as a father who waited too long to make up for his mistakes and grapples with the guilt he has carried about letting his family drift apart. Welp folks, it did indeed happened, I really cried in this movie. I have officially nailed the Tearjerker Tuesday theme, I just wish it was on a stronger film. When this movie is good it’s great, but overall it kind of disappointed me.
It’s a nice heartfelt little movie with some decent performances and tender moments. It gets bogged down with too many story lines and jumbled focus, but at its heart it’s a sweet film about the strength of a family, no matter how unconventional.
Amy’s Recommendation: 6/10