Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' The 10 Best Films Of 2004 The 10 Best Films Of 2004 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2003 First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Sundance Review: 'Wish You Were Here' With Joel Edgerton & Teresa Palmer An Overwrought, Undercooked Mystery

The Playlist By Todd Gilchrist | The Playlist January 20, 2012 at 8:05AM

Although its title implies either a whimsical journey of self-discovery or an ironic riposte to the vacation from hell, the story of “Wish You Were Here” is, in either context, a disappointingly pedestrian experience. The story of a husband and father trying to return to his normal life after a vacation with his wife and her sister that ends in the disappearance of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Australian import inspires a deluge of possibilities and provocative thoughts in its audiences’ heads, but languid pacing undermines the too-simple and ultimately too-conventional revelations that wrap up its simmering mysteries. Nevertheless, strong performances from the four leads sustains its unhurried approach far longer than the payoff deserves.
0
Wish You Were Here

Although its title implies either a whimsical journey of self-discovery or an ironic riposte to the vacation from hell, the story of “Wish You Were Here” is, in either context, a disappointingly pedestrian experience. The story of a husband and father trying to return to his normal life after a vacation with his wife and her sister that ends in the disappearance of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Australian import inspires a deluge of possibilities and provocative thoughts in its audiences’ heads, but languid pacing undermines the too-simple and ultimately too-conventional revelations that wrap up its simmering mysteries. Nevertheless, strong performances from the four leads sustains its unhurried approach far longer than the payoff deserves.

Joel Edgerton plays Dave Flannery, an architect who agrees to take his wife Alice (Felicity Price) on a holiday in Cambodia after her sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) gets swept off her feet by a new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr). After a hedonistic, blowout night of partying, Dave, Alice and Steph discover that Jeremy has gone missing; but when the authorities turn up no leads, they return to Australia and attempt to resume their daily routines. But after Alice discovers that Dave and Steph had a drunken tryst while in Cambodia, she and Dave quickly grow apart, and all three of their lives start to unravel. As Dave’s behavior grows increasingly strange and secretive, Alice contemplates whether or not to leave him, but the lingering uncertainty about what happened on that last night in Cambodia threatens to destroy their marriage before they can begin a reconciliation.

Wish You Were Here

Rest assured that the above plot description encapsulates only the first 45 minutes or so of the film -- Dave’s disclosure of his indiscretion with Steph isn’t a spoiler, for example, it’s a plot point. But the set-up for what subsequently unfolds is at once intriguingly unspecific and maddeningly conventional; while that announcement provokes a whole litany of possibilities in the viewer’s mind about what actually transpired, be it conspiracy, a violent transgression or even “just” grief-stricken infidelity, the conclusion of the mystery is depressingly simplistic. What makes that climactic revelation worse is the pacing of every scene leading up to it, which is deliberate to the point of being somnambulent. There’s such a sense of confidence in how well those final scenes play out (regardless how well they actually do) that the slow burn that leads up to them snuffs itself out before the film actually gets there.

That said, the performances are roundly terrific, starting with Edgerton as Dave. After two strong, understated performances in “Animal Kingdom” and “Warrior,” Edgerton seems destined for deservedly larger success, and here he seems like a hand grenade that’s ready to blow the moment that anyone pulls the pin out of his efforts to preserve a sense of normalcy. Meanwhile, as Alice, Price manages to convey fragility, pragmatism and resilience as the character struggles to make sense of the information that Dave provides her – and especially, that which he doesn’t. That she’s saddled with a pregnancy seems like a screenwriting device to eliminate several of her options is unfortunate, but she makes the most of it, even when the film exhausts the narrative possibilities of that sort of character detail.

Wish You Were Here

Although woefully underwritten, Teresa Palmer continues to prove with Steph that she’s one of the most gifted, and underrated, young actresses in Hollywood, managing to make her character’s behavior believable even when it’s conceived from little more than an abstract idea of “distress.” The film makes several genuinely odd choices with Steph that speak either to deleted story points or undeveloped character details, but Palmer is deeply convincing, and sympathetic, as an unpredictable young woman trying to deal with unimaginable circumstances. And after this and a handful of other roles in films where she shone more brightly than the rest of her costars (in particular “I Am Number Four,” where she cowed the male lead and made his would-be love interest irrelevant), she like Edgerton deserves greater access to roles that more fully utilize her talents.

While we’ll leave it to you to uncover what secrets lie in its overwrought, undernourished dramaturgy, the film commits a fatal error in its final moments by ascribing its characters improbable behavior, explaining it with one-dimensional, five cent justifications, and resolving the whole mess with a glossy simplicity as reassuring as it is superficial. Ultimately, it lacks the structural ingenuity to make its concept work, and the character texture and substance to make audiences care. But even though he only manages length and intensity when he’s aiming for emotional depth and dramatic sweep, Darcy-Smith does accomplish one rare feat with “Wish You Were Here” -- he somehow manages to tell a story that’s simultaneously mysterious and mostly uninteresting. (C)

This article is related to: Sundance 2012 Films, Sundance 2012 Reviews, Review, Wish You Were Here


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates