For someone who has only made two films, Zach Braff, for better or for worse, has a style so distinctive it could almost be called "Braffian." Traits that might distinguish a film as "Braffian" include: a soundtrack laden with emotional indie pop and maybe some Paul Simon and/or Simon & Garfunkel; musings on infinity; and quirky character traits. In his debut film, 2004's Garden State, the love interest was a pathological liar and epileptic who carried a helmet everywhere while another character collected Desert Storm trading cards. A childhood friend of Braff's lead character created "silent velcro." Another character (played by Jim Parsons!) worked at Medieval Times.
In Braff's follow-up Wish I Was Here, out this weekend, he does not shy away from the now-familiar formula. Like in Garden State, the lead character is a struggling actor dealing with a difficult father figure. Like in Garden State, there's a soundtrack filled with wistful songs. Like in Garden State, there's a ton of quirk. Some of it earned, some of it not so earned. Here, with some light spoilers, is a compendium of Braff's offbeat inclusions in his latest.
The Spaceman Fantasies
Throughout the movie, Braff flashes to fantasy sequences involving his character, Aidan, acting out his (and his brother's) childhood fantasies of being a space adventurer. Aidan, decked out in a space suit, is being pursued by a dark and mysterious figure, which—unsurprising spoiler alert—turns out to represent his father. Sci-fi recurs throughout the movie in other ways, as a symbol for Aidan and his brother's unachieved dreams. Aidan's brother Noah (Josh Gad) constructs a spacesuit to win a contest at Comic Con; Aidan helps a fellow struggling actor (Parsons, back again) out on an audition for a sci-fi show.