Why I Walked Out Halfway Through the New Zach Braff Movie

I didn’t intend to leave an hour into Wish I Was Here, the new Kickstarter-funded film from Zach Braff about white, young-ish people who follow their dreams. Currently in limited release, Wish I Was Here stars Braff as Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor, father, and husband who (as the promotional text states) "at 35 is still trying to find his identity.” Kate Hudson plays his wife, Sarah Bloom, who provides for their family at an office job. When Aidan’s father announces he is dying of cancer and can no longer pay private school tuition for his grandchildren, the Bloom family embarks on an adventure to discover their true passions and happiness.

I was excited about the movie because I have warm feelings for Braff’s film Garden State, which I first watched as a teenager and whose soundtrack I listened to over and over again during the tail end of high school.  Like Garden State, the new film’s soundtrack is heavy on The Shins and, despite its low rating on Pitchfork, the soundtrack resonated with me, capturing a sweetness and sympathy. Thanks to all this, I entered the theater hoping Braff’s new movie would be fun and endearing. Instead, I found myself sitting alone in a half-full theater watching a movie that was both frustrating and boring.

Braff has made “pity me” a genre with Garden State and Wish I Was Here. But in this film, I could not bring myself to pity him.

I kept thinking “Kickstarter?!” Before turning to Kickstarter to fund the film, Braff was about to sign a deal to make Wish I Was Here, but thought it would involve too many “sacrifices that would have ultimately hurt the film,” as he says on his Kickstarter page.  Inspired by the funding for the Veronica Mars movie, Braff decided to crowd-fund Wish I Was Here, raising over $3 million from individuals. Watching Wish I Was Here, I felt that the Kickstarter donations were going to waste. Braff is a well-known actor with years of experience starring in Scrubs. He's gathered a large fan base with Garden State’s success. He’s not a struggling artist who can’t find the support of a traditional film studio, like many interesting and forward-thinking movies that turn to Kickstarter to get off the ground.

Braff's protagonist Aidan spends much of the film lamenting about the pursuit of his dream when he already has so much. In one scene, Sarah and Aidan discuss their frustrations with their life and Aidan begins to whine about how his wife needs to support his dreams. This cued a major eye-roll for me: so much of our culture is already centered around supporting men and their passions and that's a dynamic Braff seemed to entirely miss when writing the film. With a $3 million Kickstarter, real-life individuals are paying to support Braff’s dream. Braff, a thirty-something white dude living in LA, then used all that support to follow his true passion of creating a movie that's all about a thirty-something white dude living in LA following his dream. If individuals are collectively funding a film that hopes to be inspiring, the end result should be as dynamic and diverse as the people who pony up to support it. Instead, the film feels absurdly self-centered. 

a still from wish i was here

And, honestly, maybe Braff could have used the help of a traditional creative team on this film: the script feels sloppy, the humor falls flat, and Braff’s acting is not very convincing. After the grandfather announces that his cancer has progressed and he will soon die, Aidan, lacking emotional depth, just looks at his father and asks if he will still be able to pay tuition. Other instances that were meant to be comedic felt forced. This could just be my belief, but from the reaction in the theater, it seemed like the crowd was way over poop jokes, Braff mocking Spanish accents, and old men riding Segways into walls. 

One of the sloppier parts of the film is how it treats Sarah’s job and her role as the family provider. Her workplace is ridden with harassing coworkers who distract her from her data entry position. Sarah reports the sexual harassment, which (of course) many workers do not do, and her supervisor just tells her to “loosen up.” This is, sadly, often a realistic response, but it felt like the film was trying to play it for laughs as the supervisor does impressions of the inappropriate comments. This part of the movie infuriated me. As someone who has been harassed in my workplace, I’ve felt how difficult it can be to summon the courage to report harassment as well as talk to a supervisor about it. Instead of creating a moment that could create awareness for sexual harassment in the workplace and how it is inappropriate, Braff turns it into an attempt to be comedic. The audience isn’t thinking about how unacceptable workplace harassment is, instead they are laughing at Sarah’s supervisor as he imitates the bad behavior.

In addition to Braff’s lackluster delivery, the characterization of Aidan and Sarah’s kids Grace and Tucker, played by Joey King and Pierce Gagnon, is gratingly stereotypical. Grace is polite and loves school, while Tucker is a troublemaker who is thrilled about leaving private school. When Aidan decides to homeschool the two (because God forbid they attend public school), Tucker frequently interrupts his sister and takes over the geometry lesson.

Although there are many winding plot lines involving the father and Aidan’s internet mischief-maker brother, the main drive of the movie is about finding your true happiness and passion. Braff isn’t creating a new concept. Wish I Was Here is a “new logo, same taste” package of hopes and dreams. I couldn’t become invested in the characters and feel sympathy for the grossly privileged Aidan. By the middle of the film, I was so tired of Aidan whining about finding his passion that I just got up and left. I just kept thinking, “You raised $3 million and this is what you did with it?” There are far more interesting stories to be told.  

UPDATE! At the request of several readers, I went back to the theater and watched the rest of this movie. It was not good.

Lucy Vernasco is Bitch's new media intern. She recently wrote the article "Seven Studies that Prove Mansplaining Exists."


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Comments

26 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Why I [should have] stopped reading this review halfway through

I don't doubt that this movie is thin and trades in tired tropes and stereotypes. Lots and lots of movies do.

I don't have any special affection for Braff and I didn't like Garden State, a movie I watched in its entirety.

In any case, I think it's pretty presumptuous to post a review of a movie that you didn't watch all the way through.

That's fair.

I once had some roommates that found a DVD in my collection and all sat down to watch it. Halfway through, they were bored and asked me how it ended. I explained that I understand it's a little annoying at times, but as the character continues to develop, you become more invested and find yourself surprised and excited by the ending. They ignored me and fast forwarded to the end. Minutes later, they declared that the movie sucked. I was disappointed that they'd missed the experience.

I doubt that anything was missed when the reviewer left the theater. I think Garden State captured a moment in time for a lot of people. It resonated with Braff's peers/generation exceptionally well, and there's value in that. But, I don't think the film holds up over time, and it would seem that Braff thinks he can continue to produce films by simply relating what he's going through at the time. Unfortunately, the longer he is who he is, the less relatable his experience is going to be.

I'm sure the reviewer tried to make a point by flaunting that she walked out of the theater, but you can't review a movie that you didn't finish watching. It is about as lazy as Braff's creative process.

That's fair.

I once had some roommates that found a DVD in my collection and all sat down to watch it. Halfway through, they were bored and asked me how it ended. I explained that I understand it's a little annoying at times, but as the character continues to develop, you become more invested and find yourself surprised and excited by the ending. They ignored me and fast forwarded to the end. Minutes later, they declared that the movie sucked. I was disappointed that they'd missed the experience.

I doubt that anything was missed when the reviewer left the theater. I think Garden State captured a moment in time for a lot of people. It resonated with Braff's peers/generation exceptionally well, and there's value in that. But, I don't think the film holds up over time, and it would seem that Braff thinks he can continue to produce films by simply relating what he's going through at the time. Unfortunately, the longer he is who he is, the less relatable his experience is going to be.

I'm sure the reviewer tried to make a point by flaunting that she walked out of the theater, but you can't review a movie that you didn't finish watching. It is about as lazy as Braff's creative process.

This isn't actually a review

This isn't actually a review or an informative piece as much as it is just a "look at my feelings on things I don't take the time to familiarize myself with" piece. I haven't seen the movie. I don't intend to. But this article is about what you can expect...

Braff

Yes I agree. I have a hard time taking any opinion as valid, when you didn't even experience the whole thing. Come back after you stopped acting like a child and finished the movie.

You walked out at JUST the wrong time. FAIL.

Hi there, you aren't actually qualified to write a review of a movie unless you watch the whole thing. You can argue with me about that point, but you know it's true.
Also, you appear to have walked out just at the wrong time. After Aiden whines about his wife supporting his dream, she basically tells him off, he has a wake up call about how selfish and douchey he's being, and gets it together, gets a job, takes care of the kids, and they sue her company for the sexual harassment. Really, the whole movie after the point you left is about how he overcomes his selfishness.

Movie review fail. Good luck next time, dude.

spoiler alert...

spoiler alert...

the author is a woman...dude.

the author is a woman...dude.

"the author is a

"the author is a woman...dude."

Well dude, we'll start worrying about that, when she starts finishing the films she reviews.

is dude a gender based word?

is dude a gender based word?

Because I know lots of females who use it directed at both sexes.

The whole rest of the movie addressed that problem...

Sounds like you left just before the turn and resolves all the issues you have with it. Try going back and watching the rest and then re-writing this. I think you'll be surprised.

Setting the stage

I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that liking and disliking different things, such as films, is mostly subjective. That being said, most of your concerns about Aidan pursuing his dream, his wife supporting him, and the harassment in the workplace were, in some capacity, dealt with at the climax and resolution of the film. The initial setup, for me, intentionally reflected these exact issues, which you yourself admit can be a true reflection of reality. While she was not the main protagonist, Kate Hudson as Bloom's wife for me felt like a very authentic representation of the barriers women can face professionally and at home, with limitations imposed on their own fulfillment. The movie may not have executed that commentary in a way that you might enjoy, and you still could have very well hated the whole movie- still, if you had seen it through to the end, I think at the very least it would be apparent that Braff was attempting to highlight these challenges women and mothers face to achieve a balance between their individual self aspirations and their families/coworkers/etc. I believe it was his intent to comment on what isn't working, to encourage a shift towards a more balanced, equal pursuit of health, self-achievement, and happiness within a marriage and a workplace.

You walked out before he realized he was being self centered

Of course you thought his character was self centered, because he was for the first part of the movie. After the turn, which you so obviously missed, he has several very touching moments with his family, especially his children, and by the end of the movie decides to get a paying job so that he can help support his family. This message is quite contrary to your assumption that the movie was about following his dreams. In fact, the refrain of the movie, stated at the beginning and several times throughout, essentially states that not everyone gets to follow their dreams.
Also, while I can't possibly understand your experience with harrassment, and I understand that your experience gives you a different perspective on how harassment is portrayed in movies and television, myself and everyone I have talked to about the movie had a completely different view of the harassment in the movie. I, and the people I discussed it with, saw the boss not as comical, but as an emulation of how society treats victims of harassment overall. I felt flabbergasted at the bosses response, as did Sarah, and was ultimately angry and both the assailant and the boss. Moreover, at the end of the movie, that exchange received a very satifying conclusion where the coworker was ultimatly fired, amoung other things.
Overall, by leaving the movie early, you denied yourself the full experience that Zach braff offered you, and denied him the opportunity to tell you a wonderful story. I hope you take the time to finish the movie, and that you watch it with an open mind so that you can truly understand what he is trying to say.

Lame review. Go watch the whole movie.

This is lame, Lucy. You should go watch the full movie before you write the review. I have not seen the film and I don't have a strong opinion about it or about Braff. But it's just not fair to anyone involved to review it like this if you did not see the whole film.

If you really couldn't stomach it, let someone else do the review.

I may be showing my age...

...but Garden State is waaaaay over-rated.

also showing your good

also showing your good taste.

agreed.

agree

agree too

Disagree

I donated to the kickstarter and I liked the movie! I didn't love the movie as much as garden state but I still felt it was well written and well acted. Kate Hudson definitely exceeded my expectations! And (SPOILER ALERT) he did the right thing at the end of the movie! I think that by you leaving to movie half way through you've given up your right to review. :/

I have fond memories of

I have fond memories of Garden State (I was in the throes of my Natalie Portman obsession when I watched it) but I have no desire to see this film. It just rubs me the wrong way that he used Kickstarter when he had ample resources. I know the donators made me the decision but it's just all around icky.

I expected to read about some

I expected to read about some insight or epiphany you had partway through the film, but what I got from this is that you left because you were bored and irritated. The result is that this piece is neither helpful as a review or nor interesting as a discussion of any larger issues related to the movie (rehashing the criticisms directed at Braff when he started the kickstarter doesn't count). I'm usually a big fan of Bitch, but I'm confused and disappointed about why this was published, even on the blog.

Hung Up On Budget

The author seems more concerned about the source of the budget rather than the content of the film. We get it he crowd funded the budget, move on.

Also, "If individuals are collectively funding a film that hopes to be inspiring, the end result should be as dynamic and diverse as the people who pony up to support it. Instead, the film feels absurdly self-centered."

So he should worry about what the "shareholders" think rather than make what he wants to make? Wouldn't that be the same or worse as selling to a major production company?

What is a bit self centered is posting a review of a movie that you didn't complete watching. I get it if you didn't like it and walked out, fine. Telling others what you thought of a movie and the creative vision of those involved with out seeing the entire thing is a bit arrogant.

Everyone here is bitching

Everyone here is bitching about how you didn't finish the movie before reviewing it. So what? It would be one thing if you reviewed it without letting everyone know upfront that you didn't finish it. But it's in the headline of the article. The point is that the movie was unsalvageable to you. It was that bad.

I sat through the whole movie and felt like it was shitty for all the reasons you suggested about the first half. The second half didn't save anything. It just made it worse, in my opinion, that it harped upon so many of the expected tropes, was unbelievable and explored such a bland topic to begin with. I wish I left halfway through.

Really?

Hi,

So you walked out Half-way through? You can't "force" yourself to just sit and finish the film? Do you feel a sense of entitlement or are you carrying that big of an ego from an "interns" point of view?.....and you complain about this guy whining? Take a step back and reexamine yourself.
Also, those who helped fund the film did not waste their money. You wasted yours because you GOT UP AND LEFT.

She didn't post this article

She didn't post this article as a 'review', it's literally CALLED "Why I Walked Out Halfway Through The New Zach Braff Movie". If she hadn't walked out halfway through it, it would be a different article. Perhaps an article called "A Review of the New Zach Braff Movie'.
If you would like to read a full review of the movie, may I suggest choosing an article that doesn't imply IN THE TITLE that the writer left before it was over?

Really should have watched the whole film.

By walking out before the resolution you COMPLETELY missed the point. I understand this wasn't supposed to be a "review" but your opinion will influence your readers perspectives positively or negatively whether you want it to or not. As a poor student who donated to the movie I felt it acheived it's message well and I wasn't at all disappointed in the resolution of the film. I hope you go back and watch it but you'll likely be unhappy with the outcome anyways. I loved Bitch once upon a time but the lack of quality writing and critical thought applied to the articles written as of late has disappointed me. You walked out of the film because you felt offended and angry by something that was later resolved. I saw this first by myself before it was released in theaters and then again with a fellow feminist and we both felt angry and exasperated when Sarah's charater was being harassed. Of course you were supposed to get a small chuckle out of the ludicrous way her boss responded but it wasn't a "hahaha look how much he doesn't care" moment, it was a "wow what a dick that guy is" moment. Perhaps you missed some of the humor, I suppose it's all perspective. But you really should have finished watching the film.

**SOME SPOILERS (MILD)** Hi!

**SOME SPOILERS (MILD)**

Hi! I really love your blog, but I have to disagree with your review of this movie. I went to see it last week with my dad, and we loved it. I think the part you referenced when Kate Hudson's character goes to talk to her boss about being sexually harassed at work was not intended to be comedic. It personally left me disgusted at her boss, mostly because most people do tell women in those situations to "lighten up." They do address this later in the film as well, and Zach Braff's reaction to it is beautiful. Also, the scene you mentioned about Zach Braff whining about Kate Hudson not supporting his dreams - the very next line she says in that scene is something along the lines of "When did this relationship become just about your dreams?" And he realizes she is right and he has been selfish.

I feel as though Zach Braff put a lot of effort into this film and I think you should really give it a go all the way through, maybe when it comes out on DVD. It has a lot of beautiful messages about the importance of family and is a really great story overall. There were a few scenes towards the end that had me in tears. Obviously, just an opinion, but give it a try!