By Edie Weinstein
Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? It’s an age-old question that came to mind while watching the film “Wish I Was Here,” directed by Zach Braff who is best known for his role in the sitcom “Scrubs.” Braff also plays the male lead, Aidan Bloom, facing Kate Hudson as his wife, Sarah. The rest of the stellar cast includes veteran actor Mandy Patinkin as Aidan’s hypercritical father Gabe and Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Movie Similarities To Real-Life Family Addiction Struggles
The central characters are facing crises that impact them individually and collectively, and there are overlapping emotional contracts that they have made with each other, not unlike those of families embattled by addiction. Some are quite clear and others unspoken. One thing that is unusual about the movie is that it highlights a modern Orthodox Jewish family in which the husband rebelled against his upbringing (celebrating his Bar Mitzvah by asking for a bacon double cheeseburger, not exactly kosher cuisine) and still allows his father to pay the tuition for his son and daughter’s yeshiva (Jewish private school) education. That is, until a life-threatening illness comes into the picture and all are called upon to address their beliefs about faith and family.
A Man Wearing Many Hats In Life
Braff’s character Aidan plays four roles (not an accidental paradox since he is an out-of-work actor) – father, son, husband and brother with varying degrees of discomfort. As a father, he has a loving relationship with his children, but feels he is letting them down by not being able to provide for them since he is not gainfully employed. He is at odds with his belief that he should be able to pursue his dream of being a successful actor, wanting to model personal happiness for them so they can pursue their dreams as well and still support them financially.
As a husband, he has some doubt that it acceptable for him to allow his wife to be the primary breadwinner. Although they had a verbal contract that she continues to honor, her tolerance for feeling responsible for most of the aspects of family life is decreasing. As a son, he is catapulted back into chaos when his father Gabe announces that the cancer has metastasized and he is attempting an experimental treatment into which he is choosing to funnel the funds that had been paying for his grandchildren’s schooling. Both are precocious kids who are remarkably insightful and are sometimes the voice of conscience and spirituality.
The fourth role Aidan plays is that of brother to Noah who is seemingly a savant who can “see” with radar vision and in his mind, piece together found objects and create a Comic-Con costume. Noah has no ambition to have a “real job” and earns a meager living as a blogger. He is estranged from their father who is harshly critical of the choices both of his sons have made. A thread running through the movie is the desire to put order to chaos and rise above challenges while making peace with the past. The tagline “Life is an occasion; rise to it” reflects the beauty and sorrow this family is experiencing as each says goodbye to the old and attempts to embrace the new, as frightening as it is.
‘Wish I Was Here’ Highlights Some Of The Dynamics Common In Many Families
Consider these questions:
- Who are the heroes, villains, ne’er do wells, victims, innocents, black sheep and rabble rousers?
- What changes need to be made for the good of the collective?
- How important is it to live your dream and is it mutually exclusive with maintaining responsibility?
- Is it possible to fulfill multiple roles effectively?
- Can you forgive when you feel wronged by someone you love?
- Can you make amends when you have been the one unintentionally causing harm?
- How do you face the death of a loved one? Does it make you consider your own mortality?
- Is adapting to change easy or difficult?
- What role does spirituality play in your life?
- How do you exhibit courage?
- What is the happiest you have ever been?
All of these are themes in a movie that ends with the narration by Aidan: “When my brother and I were kids, we used to pretend we were heroes; the only ones who could save the day. Maybe we’re just regular people. The ones who get saved.”
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