Zach Braff back at Sundance with tragicomedy 'Wish I Was Here'

Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:22pm EST
 
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - After exploring the quarter-life crises of young adults in the critical and commercial hit "Garden State" a decade ago, actor-director Zach Braff turned his eye to examine the existential dilemmas faced by parents in his new film "Wish I Was Here."

Braff plays 35-year-old Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor and married father of two, who decides to home school his children after the family can no longer afford the tuition for the private Jewish school the kids attend.

As Aidan battles with his own spiritual beliefs while he attempts to teach his "indoctrinated little matzo balls," he must find the motivation to move into a new chapter in his life and finally take responsibility for being a father who provides for his family.

"Wish I Was Here" marks Braff's return to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival exactly 10 years after he made his directorial debut with "Garden State," a film that garnered the actor-director critical praise and became a cult hit.

As an actor, Braff, 38, rose to prominence as daydreaming doctor J.D. on television sitcom "Scrubs," and "Wish I Was Here" sees him reunite with fellow "Scrubs" cast member Donald Faison, who plays a small role.

Braff, who co-wrote the film with his brother, Adam, told the audience at the movie's premiere this weekend that "Wish I Was Here" reflected the personal experiences that the two of them have had in their lives.

"'Garden State' was all the things me and my 25-year-old friends were obsessing about and talking about and worried about," Braff said. "With this, my brother and I are sharing the things we're talking about. He's got two young children, so what are the things he's wrestling with and teaching them? For me, it's my own spirituality." Braff does not have children.

He blends moments of levity and gravity in his film, from a rabbi on a Segway driving into a wall to his dying father, Gabe, wanting to make amends with his two sons. In one poignant moment, Gabe, played by actor Mandy Patinkin, says, "When life becomes tragic, it always circles back to comedy," something that "Wish I Was Here" plays with throughout.   Continued...

 
Actors Kate Hudson (L) and Zach Braff attend the premiere of the film "Wish I Was Here" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, January 18, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart