Sundance: Wish I Was Here


I got to go to my very first "blogger" event last Saturday, thanks to an awesome friend and much more seasoned blogger.  We had a little reception, and then were treated to a screening of the Zack Braff film Wish I Were Here.  Yay, Sundance!

I might start off with a warning - a disclaimer.  There were people who walked out of this film.  Sundance doesn't put ratings on its movies.  The language is rough, especially at first.  There are many instances of the "F" word.  And a couple of questionable scenes. I wonder, some days, if "artists" will ever realize how much it belittles rather than elevates their art to include "edgy" material.  The film begins with Robert Frost's profound and amazing poem, The Mending Wall, and I can't help but wonder if anyone, anyone has ever thought that poem could have been improved upon by throwing in a few F-bombs.  And yet, if you see an art house film, if you go to Sundance, it is a statistical likelihood you will be shocked or offended by some of the subject matter, language, imagery, etc. Because that's art. Apparently. But if it is, what does that make Robert Frost? Just sayin'.

So now, off that soapbox, because I really do love this film.
Wish I Was Here tells the story of Aidan Bloom, who is a struggling actor (played by Zack Braff), who is rather clueless about his own life. And though the film focuses on Aidan and his journey, what makes this story so beautiful is Aidan's family and how through them he comes to so many realizations about himself.  His wife, Sarah, and his kids Grace and Tucker, create a dynamic that makes the journey really about all of them. Aiden, due to financial straits that force his kids out of private school, opts to homeschool.  Of course, we anticipate antics and are not disappointed. But then it goes deeper, and while never an ideal schooling situation, the scenario turns out to be essential for father and children.  With humor throughout, but heavy, serious subject matter, the film is compelling and well-paced.  And for me, it hit really close to home.
I was glad for the dark theater, because I was teary for a lot of the movie.  Probably in places that might seem odd to other people.  I understand a husband who is so passionate about living his dream that almost nothing else matters.  During a conversation between Aidan and Sarah, when she demands in frustration, "when did my life become about supporting your dreams?" I admit I cried a little in sympathy. And yet, in the very next scene, when his dreams are attacked, when Aidan is being told to give up on acting, to grow up and support his family and get a "real" job, Sarah is the one to rush to his defense! She fiercely declares her undying support.  Oh, how I understand that insane contradiction! It doesn't make any sense to simultaneously resent and be so amazingly proud of the same thing at the same time, but I get that.  I just adore Sarah's character.  I love her strength and joy despite being so weary.  I love her hope and belief in the people around her despite disappointment.  I love her prioritization of others while also being determined to find her own passion.
In the film, the central movement of action revolves around Aiden's father, played by my absolute favorite, Mandy Patinkin, who is dying of cancer.  Again, this falls so close to our own lives, with my husband's father having passed away from cancer four years ago.  Watching Aiden go through that experience was almost too much for me, since there were already so many associations in my mind.  But it was handled so beautifully.  And Mandy Patinkin is simply amazing.
In the end, there were odd moments - quirks of the film that didn't sit well with me that I found incongruous.  I felt it could have been a little more.  I wish it had been a little more.  But something about that itself makes sense to me, because it is a very human work, and don't we all have a few oddball, unpolished bits about us? Can't we all be a little more? That's kind of the point.
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