Wish You Were Here — Review and Interview

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wish you were hereIt’s time to taste what you most fear/Right Guard will not help you here

Brave yourself, my dear

It’s a holiday in Cambodia/It’s tough kid, but it’s life

It’s a holiday in Cambodia/Don’t forget to pack a wife.

–Dead Kennedys

Who doesn’t like that punk anthem, and who won’t want to jump on a plane and take a trip to Cambodia after watching such a fun looking montage that starts this movie. It’s a few couples in their 30s having a blast. They show an arrogance traveling that I’ve never had (mostly because of living so close to Mexico and the horror stories I’ve heard).

Kieran Darcy-Smith directed his first feature film, and co-wrote it with his wife Felicity Price, who is one of the main characters. She reminds me of a Kate Winslet with a bit more intelligence and apprehension behind her eyes. You get the feeling if you come home from work late, she’s not going to buy some lame excuse.

After all the shopping, drinking, pill-popping and dancing, we see Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) walking shirtless through a field. We realize that things probably didn’t turn out so well on this trip to Cambodia. You can almost feel your head throb at the hangover he’s nursing.

When Edgerton and Price return home, things aren’t right. Little sister Steph (Teresa Palmer of Warm Bodies) shows up, and we soon find out her new boyfriend (Antony Starr) had gone missing on that trip. Edgerton always has a look on his face that makes you wonder what he’s hiding. It’s why he was so great in a few movies out of Australia – The Square (which made my Top 10 when it came out), and Animal Kingdom. I can’t tell you what they reveal, but will say I would’ve preferred a straightforward narrative with flashbacks. Instead, it jumps around a lot leaving the viewer guessing. Not that that’s a horrible thing, as it holds your interest the entire time. There are just a few moments in the first half of the movie where Edgerton is suspicious of many things, and that would obviously have a lot more tension if we knew some of the things we find out later.

The fact that Price is pregnant with their third child adds an element of tension to everything happening. I would’ve preferred his character to be a bit more likable, so we could completely root for him – or at least have a bit more sympathy for him.

How I wish you were here

We’re just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl

Year after year/Running over the same old ground

And how we found/The same old fears

Wish you were here

— Pink Floyd

For a first film, Darcy-Smith does a solid job with the script and editing, and I’ll be anxiously looking forward to his next project.

This gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.

 

wish you were here IN

Joel Edgerton looks on, as Felicity Price shows her disappointment.

The Interview – with actress Felicity Price and director Kieran Darcy-Smith (be warned: it contains spoilers)

 

It must be so hard to be living together and working on this movie. Felicity, it’s not like you can go home to your husband and complain about the director. And Kieran, it’s not like you can complain to your wife about the cast not getting it. It seems like it would just be Wish You Were Here 24 hours a day.

Felicity Price: No, no…not at all! It was the complete opposite. We’ve been working on this script for four years. We’d be on BBQs with our kids and something would come up, and you talk about a certain scene. It might be while we’re doing the dishes or cooking a meal. Even when we were working on other projects, sometimes even when changing nappies. It’s actually more convenient because you wouldn’t need a prearranged appointment to talk to the screenwriter or producer. We were very absorbed in it. When we shot in Cambodia, that meant we got to bring the kids with us on the set. It was the first shot of his first feature film, and the family was there. It was a great bonding experience.

Kieran Darcy-Smith: When the whole thing started, the kids were around when we were working on the script. When we went to Sundance, and brought the family over to L.A. It’s like our whole lives changed together.

Josh Board: I’ve been a fan of Joel and Nash Edgerton for awhile, and I have to think the studio is happy that Edgerton was just in The Great Gatsby. That’s got to help out in promoting an Australian movie in the States.

Kieran Darcy-Smith: Oh yeah, it was enormous. The distributors were happy. Joel has always been huge and well-known in our community. He’s been doing amazing work for years. When Warrior was released, it put him on the map dramatically.

Josh Board: Since you worked for four years on the movie, and you had a narrative that jumped around a lot – does it bother you if during that time a few other movies come out that implore that technique? What about a movie coming out that might have a similar scene?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: No, not really. Since the movie came out exactly as we wanted it to, we’re really proud of it. You might see a movie like 21 Grams or something, and maybe there is a similar scene.

Felicity Price: I have heard of that happening. You did scene XYZ, and another film has an XYZ scene, and that’s a misfortune. We looked at things like that as an inspiration. We wanted to make it work in our film. We had strong influences, and we revisited things from time to time, various styles. Nothing was ever detrimental to what we were doing.

Kieran Darcy-Smith: No, nothing negative in that sense. We loved the movie, the integrity of the story. We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this. We just thought we had written a compelling mystery. It was a thriller…a psychological drama.

Josh Board: You have a scene in this movie that I just loved. And I’ve always wondered when I see such a powerful scene in a movie, how much of that is the actor and how much is the direction you’re giving them. I’m referring to the scene in which the stabbing takes place. Edgerton is so drunk, yet he’s not playing that drunk character we’ve seen in other movies – where he’s just cursing up a storm or wildly throwing haymakers at any person in the bar. He gets angry, and starts yelling about the young girl. His friend is telling him to shut up, and just when you think he will shut up – out of his mouth comes something else. It creates such a tension for the viewer. I loved it. Was it his idea to continue on, or is it you telling him exactly how to do that?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: Oh, well, thank you for saying that. Joel is such a fantastic actor and you let actors do their thing, but all of that is written on the page. I wanted to do a scene, because we’ve all had those times where we’re really drunk or with somebody that is, and they just don’t shut up. Even when things keep getting worse. There’s just a level of danger when somebody is so drunk and so angry. He was so entrenched in his self-loathing and shame at that point.

Josh Board: At that point in the movie, I didn’t pick up on the self-loathing. That leads to one of my complaints about the movie. It’s one of the few complaints I have. I just don’t think Edgerton was likable enough. Half way through the movie I just had to assume he was an alcoholic. And when he has an affair with his sister-in-law…had it been filmed in a way where it’s like he’s just wasted out of his mind and not knowing what he’s doing; but he may have been drunk but he was certainly the aggressor. Did you consider making his character a little more likable?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: That’s a fair criticism. And we have heard that before, in other reviews, regarding all that. During the writing process we certainly talked about a lot of things regarding these characters, but we finally just decided – these are people in their 30s, generation X. They’re partying, they’re in another country and…yes, we did contemplate that, but then we finally just let him go and do his thing. His wife was pregnant with their third child, too. We felt that he did show a certain amount of remorse and self-loathing afterwards.

At that point in the interview, Kieran was saying so much and Felicity was jumping in to tell me her take on the character, but I just couldn’t write it all down fast enough to catch what she was saying.

I thanked them for their time, and for giving us a movie we don’t feel like we wasted our time watching.