Things have been kind of quiet in the land of Zach Braff of late. Unless you count his appearance as a bellhop monkey in “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Or the critically savaged play he wrote a couple of years ago, the title of which escapes me. (I saw it; the critics were not entirely wrong.) On the directorial front, meanwhile, he hasn’t made a feature film since his 2004 debut, “Garden State” — which earned him enough first-film accolades, including Independent Spirit and National Board of Review wins, plus a WGA nod, that you’d have expected a follow-up sooner rather than later.
Anyway, here it is: Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” — yep, the one he controversially took to Kickstarter to finance — will be unveiled in the Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival next month, precisely 10 years after “Garden State” premiered in Park City. It’ll join the 17 Premiere titles announced last week, including new films from Anton Corbijn, Lynn Shelton and Gregg Araki.
The film, which he also co-wrote with his brother Adam, stars Braff as a thirtysomething actor and family man, “trying to find purpose in his life.” (So far, so “Garden State.”) The death of his father forces him to unite with his family and “turn the page onto the next chapter” and so on and so forth. It all sounds very Braff, which will either delight or dismay you; his co-stars include Kate Hudson (continuing her indie streak after “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”), Mandy Patinkin and Josh Gad.
In other Sundance news, Kevin Smith’s landmark indie “Clerks,” for which the filmmaker won the Filmmaker’s Trophy at Sundance in 1994, is marking its 20th anniversary with a Midnight Screening at next year’s festival. The scrappy black-and-white comedy, about two slacker convenience-store clerks going about their chaotic day, was a sensation when it first appeared, improbably launching Smith onto the scene — for my money, he’s never improved on it. It seemed very fresh then, but I haven’t seen it since the 90s — I wonder how it holds up.
The 2014 Sundance Film Festival takes place from January 6-16.