Film / Reviews

Zach Braff on the many woes of American dads and crowdfunding

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

The American dad is doing well, even if he is not what he used to be. Despite the lasting effects of the Great Recession on the U.S. economy and all the other bad stuff that undermines the morale of American males, he is still around — you’ll see the evidence in “Wish I Was Here.”

You know this man: nice to his wife, affable to the world and loves his kids. Aidan Bloom (played by Zach Braff) is just such a dad in “Wish I Was Here,” but he is also an out-of-work actor who relies on his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), to bring home the bacon — and expects her to be understanding, supportive and sexy, too. Clearly, this particular American dad wants to have his cake (with extra frosting) and scarf it down, too. That sense of entitlement is so American dad. It’s endearing but also infuriating — a trait Aidan shares with the film itself.

Aidan is likable mostly because the director and co-writer of this film also happen to be Braff. He plays Aidan as a dreamer and semi-drifter, but his sincerity shines through in every scene. While he stays home to take care of his kids, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) and Grace (Joey King), Sarah is hard at work for the Los Angeles water department, where she struggles against a Californian drought and sexual harassment. Quitting is not an option — she is the sole wage earner. Aidan’s dad, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), helps foot the bill for the kids’ education at a Jewish school, but after discovering that he’s dying from cancer, Gabe can no longer afford to pay tuition.

Wish I Was Here (Bokura no Iru Basho)
Rating
Run Time 106 min
Language English
Opens June 12

Aidan does his best, but he’s ill-equipped to deal with either his dad’s imminent death or his kids’ education. (His attempts at home-schooling are a disaster.) In the meantime, Aidan’s brother, Noah (Josh Gad), who lives in a trailer by the beach, is oblivious to his brother’s plight.

“There is so much bad news . . . all at once,” Aidan wails.

“I wanted to tell a story about how families struggle to get by,” Braff tells The Japan Times. “In the U.S., a lot of dads stay home to take care of the kids because public schools are so bad.

“In many ways, this movie is a tapestry of my life and my brother’s,” says Braff, referring to his real-life brother Adam, who co-wrote the screenplay. “Like Sarah, his real wife is the breadwinner while he tries to write, and the big question we always keep asking ourselves is, ‘How long are we allowed to go after our dreams?’ This is an unthinkable question for Gabe’s generation. My own father wouldn’t be caught dead working his wife’s fingers to the bone — but times have changed.”

“Wish I Was Here” was crowdfunded through Kickstarter — a growing trend among indie and documentary filmmakers — but there was a big hullabaloo surrounding Braff’s campaign. Firstly, he’s a big TV star, so naturally it’s easier for him. Secondly, he’s a big TV star — he shouldn’t have to ask for help, right? The backlash hit Braff hard and he says he will never go down that route again.

“We were able to get over $2 million in the first month,” Braff says. So is Kickstarter the future of filmmaking?

“I would think so,” he says. “But they should change the laws so that the investors could have a share in the profits. That way, it would be a win-win situation for everyone. But having the money doesn’t solve all the problems. Getting theatrical distribution in the U.S. is now harder than ever. Getting international distribution is a miracle. There are many excellent films out there that don’t see the light of day.”

It doesn’t hurt being Zach Braff either, with a huge fan base and a lot of friends in the industry’s high places. The title track, for example, was written and performed by Braff’s friend Chris Martin, the frontman of Coldplay.

Boy does it riff at your heartstrings, but ultimately neither Braff nor Aidan are crooning sad songs. Dad is doing just fine.

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