Trailer Face-Off: Lucky Them vs. Wish I Was Here

Published May 7, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week:  Lucky Them vs.Wish I Was Here, two festival hits with 30something protagonists in the midst of their not-quite-midlife crises. PremiseNavigating (or not navigating) one’s midlife (or mid-adulthood) crisis is a timeless tale as far as Hollywood is concerned, and two upcoming films are tackling the ups and downs of this journey head-on. In Lucky Them, Toni Collette plays Ellie Klug, a veteran music journalist recovering from a series of demoralizing romantic flings with younger musicians. Unfortunately, things at work aren’t going so smoothly for her, either, and Ellie is given one last chance to deliver an amazing story before she loses her job. She joins forces with a wannabe documentarian (Thomas Haden Church—the comedic relief has to come from somewhere) and embarks on a journey of self-discovery while trying to find and write a story on her ex-boyfriend, local rock legend Matthew Smith. Meanwhile, Zach Braff’s sophomore directorial effort comes 10 years after the writer-actor-director’s release of the cult classic, Garden State. From what we can tell (which is not much—the trailer is actually a teaser of clips set to “Simple Song” by The Shins), Wish I Was Here is a more sentimental redux of Garden State exploring the anxieties and struggles of the late 30something generation. Braff portrays out-of-work actor Aidan Bloom, who receives news that his father has cancer. In addition to the obvious familial strains that this causes, the cost of treatment forces Aidan to pull his son and daughter out of their expensive Jewish school. In making the switch to homeschooling, Aidan opts for, shall we say, some rather unconventional teaching methods. While both of these plots sound pretty compelling, we can pretty well guess the end of Lucky Them, while Wish I Was Here could go in any number of directions.Advantage: Wish I Was HereStar PowerToni Collette has played the role of “woman trying to find herself” many times over (About a Boy, In Her Shoes, Muriel’s Wedding) and she’s no stranger to films with indie elements (let’s not forget that she was nominated for a Golden Globe with Little Miss Sunshine). Zach Braff’s résumé is a bit more diverse; on the acting front, Braff was most recently heard in Oz the Great and Powerful, and before Wish I Was Here, he directed the TV movie Night Life (yeah, we haven’t heard of it either). Braff is a fine actor, but Collette has over 20 years of roles and countless awards to her name, which makes this an easy call.Advantage: Lucky ThemLost ProtagonistsBoth films feature main characters immersed in messy artistic crossroads. In Lucky Them, Ellie has lost just about everything but her job, and even that is hanging by a thread . Similarly, in Wish I Was Here, Aidan’s attempts to support his family via his acting career are going nowhere. While Ellie’s pressure to get her life together is really just affecting herself, Aidan is juggling a wife, two kids, an ailing parent, and a semi-estranged brother, so the stakes for his personal and professional turnaround are higher.Advantage: Wish I Was HereSupporting EnsembleEach of these films has a fantastic supporting cast. Lucky Them also stars Thomas Haden Church, Ryan Eggold, Oliver Platt, Nina Arianda, as well as a pretty fantastic mystery actor. Wish I Were Here features Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Ashley Greene, and the late James Avery (in what would be his last role). Basically, this category boils down to the fact that we don’t see Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) onscreen nearly enough. His dry sarcasm is unrivaled, and from the trailer, we can tell he has some pretty great one-liners.Advantage: Lucky ThemThe JourneyBoth of these films explore artistically rooted life crises, and portraying this kind of inner turmoil onscreen can either be very touching or overly sentimental. While Lucky Them seems to toe this line carefully, Wish I Was Here could either be another Garden State or… be another Garden State. Advantage: Lucky ThemThe VerdictIt’s not that Wish I Was Here doesn’t look promising—frankly, we can’t really tell what it looks like. Even when a more detailed trailer for Braff’s comes out, however, Lucky Them still has a lot going for it between Toni Collette, the beautiful backdrop of Seattle, Thomas Haden Church’s wisecracks, and what appears to be a whole lot of heart. So if it has to be one or the other, we say pop your old DVD of Garden State in at your leisure and make a night out of seeing Lucky Them in theaters.Winner: Lucky Them

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.