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By Dustin Heller

Wish I Was Here is the new comedy drama film from writer/director/actor Zach Braff.  Braff is best known for his starring role as Dr. John Dorian on the hit television series Scrubs.  He also made his film directorial debut with the 2004 critical and financial hit Garden State.  To help finance Wish I Was Here, Braff started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million for the project.  At the end of its one month campaign, the project had raised $3,105,473 with donations from 46,520 people.  Since then, the film has had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival where Garden State had premiered ten years earlier.  Alongside Braff, the film stars Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, and Jim Parsons.

The film follows Aidan Bloom (Braff), an out-of-work actor still trying to “make-it” in the business at age 35.  He goes to auditions while his wife, Sarah (Hudson), is the breadwinner of the family in a job she hates.  Things take a nasty turn for Aidan when his father, Saul (Patinkin), is diagnosed with cancer and cannot afford to send his kids to Jewish private school any longer.  This forces Aidan into homeschooling the kids; where he is more about teaching life lessons than actual school work.  As time marches on and for what seem like desperate times, Aidan is forced to face some harsh realities in his own life and ends up finding himself in the process.

Wish I Was Here is such a charming film with a really big heart.  Zach Braff has a big hit on his hands and he definitely shows off his excellent writing skills here.  The movie received a lot of criticism early on for having to seek funding through the Kickstarter campaign.  People questioned why a rich actor in Hollywood would have to ask for money in order to get a film made.  I can say that the finished product is worthy of a monetary donation, and I only wish I would have chipped in so I could say that I’m a part of this movie.  The entire cast was really great and the chemistry jumps off the screen.  It really feels like they are just having fun making this movie.  Kate Hudson’s performance really stood out for me and reminded me that I really wished she’d work more often.  The film is a little slow getting off the ground and does hit on a number of Indie film clichés, but the end product is really moving.  Wish I Was Here is tailor-made for the arthouse crowd, but I’d like to think that everyone can find some joy in it.

Grade:  A-

Wish I Was Here opens on Friday, July 18.

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