How I was introduced to the films
About three years ago on Christmas, my oldest sister got a movie for the rest of her siblings based on where she thought we were in our lives. My second oldest sister received 500 Days of Summer , my older brother was given Trainspotting, and I got Garden State.
I wasn't yet cultured when it came to film, so I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I popped the DVD into my computer and hit play. I had no idea that Garden State would become my favorite movie of all time.
Zach Braff is the most genuine and sincere person that I have seen in the film industry. He enjoys writing and directing because he pours his heart out into his movies in order to effectively convey his message and the emotions that come along with it. Both movies that he has directed and starred in have really struck a chord with me in a way that no other film has been able to.
The genre mix of comedy and drama that appears in his films is something that Braff excels at. As stated in an interview with Braff by Jake Hamilton:
I try to write what I know.
Diving into his work
Braff made his debut as a director and writer with Garden State, which is about a failed actor who comes back home after 9 years for his mother's funeral. The film follows him as he deals with the ghosts of his past and the reasons why he left in the first place. Accompanied by a Grammy award-winning soundtrack and fantastic supporting actors, the film is refreshingly original with subtle bits of comedy as well as heartfelt moments. Braff's character, Andrew Largeman, feels like a real person being plagued with problems.
His second movie, Wish I Was Here, also follows a struggling actor who must try to keep his family together as they face financial and family issues while also guiding his children in the right direction.
Unfortunately, Wish I Was Here falls tremendously short when compared to Garden State. Although the stories are different, and both are sincere and earnest, the narratives are both too similar. Identical themes, such as losing a parent, and the lack of a memorable soundtrack in Wish I Was Here, which is a highlight of Garden State, makes the movie feel rushed and unoriginal.
That being said, when the two films are looked at independently, Wish I Was Here shines just as brightly as Garden State. Both movies are snapshots of different parts of Braff's life. Garden State is a snapshot of Braff as a younger person trying to find himself after letting the world push him out of the way for so long. In Wish I Was Here, Braff has already found himself but it is now his responsibility to make sure that his children find their own way to be unique and are able to overcome challenges, something that Braff's character was not able to do in Garden State. The two movies really can't be compared because they were created for two different reasons. The plots, despite their similarities, are meant to convey different feelings.
Also being two different characters, Andrew from Garden State and Aidan from Wish I Was Here represent an evolution of personality. Even though both characters were created by Braff, they were created at different stages in his life.
His films represent what he has experienced in a particular time of his life, and since he knows exactly what has happened with his life, it allows for an easy transition into a movie. The movies have everything to do with each other, being of the same genre and director, and yet they have nothing to do with each other, because they were created by different experiences.
I prefer Garden State over Wish I Was Here because I relate to it very strongly. Just like with Braff, the movie is almost like a snapshot. It came at a point in my life where I was still trying to find myself and hadn't grown to the point where I thought I could make choices for myself. Although, in terms of what the films include, they both have amazing soundtracks and the camera work is superb as well.
I've come to realize the reason that I don't like Wish I Was Here as much is because I don't understand it. I haven't begun to experience what it is like to take up responsibility for others. Hopefully, once I get to that point in my life, I'll fall in love with it on Christmas like I did with Garden State.