You guys, I’m worried about Zach Braff.
The poster for his new movie, Wish I Was Here (which he funded by raising more than $3 million from his fans through Kickstarter), was released this week to coincide with the film’s debut at Sundance. And while the poster is definitely setting off plenty of alarms on the ol’ Quirk-o-Meter, I’m worried that it’s not quirky enough!
I mean, Zach Braff — The Human Quirkipede — is the guy who brought us Garden State, a film that might be the most quirkified piece of quirk in modern cinematic history. Remember when Braff wore the shirt that matched the wallpaper in the bathroom? Remember when he rode around on that old WWII motorcycle with a sidecar while wearing the ridiculously small vintage helmet? Or what about the character of Sam, played by Natalie Portman, who, 10 years later, still stands as one of film’s most iconic examples of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope? Then there was that scene where Braff and Portman visit his crazy friend, Jesse — the guy who bought a mansion using the fortune he accumulated from inventing “silent Velcro” (!!!) — and they play a game where Jesse shoots a flaming arrow into the sky and they all have to dodge it. Oh, and who could forget the poster-ready shot where, along with Portman and Peter Skaarsgard (playing his grave-digging childhood friend, Mark), Braff stood in the rain, dressed in a baggy trashbag rain-slicker, and screamed into the infinite abyss of a giant pit, metaphorically exorcising the crushing anxiety of his character’s quarter-life crisis? Quirk on quirk on quirk. Quirk for days. Garden State is the steel-cage, ladder match of quirky films, and that makes Braff the undisputed, undefeated, often imitated but never duplicated, Heavyweight Champion of Quirk.
It’s also the reason I’m concerned that his latest flick isn’t going to contain enough quirk to satisfy all the hardcore quirkiphiles out there. Ok, sure. The poster features SOME quirk. I mean, look at Braff. He’s rocking the ironic fat-Elvis sunglasses while lugging around a giant plastic container that’s hand-labeled “Swear Jar.” That’s pretty quirky. And, obviously, the young girl on the right is pretty quirktastic, with her neon pink wig and giant, white-rimmed circular sunglasses. We might as well start calling her Quirk-yonce. The little kid certainly seems to be pulling his weight when it comes to upping the quirk factor — he’s wearing a headband and a towel-cape while brandishing a power drill for seemingly no reason whatsoever. His quirk game is on a hundred thousand trillion.
Then there is the matter of that weird spaceman hovering over Braff’s shoulder. According to a brief plot description posted on the film’s original Kickstarter page, that little dude is “the great futuristic Space-Knight,” an imaginary figure Braff’s character dreamed about as a kid, which he now uses as an escape-fantasy to take a break from the pressuers of adulthood. The film’s pre-production art implies that there will be multiple scenes where Braff’s character inhabits the animated world of Space-Knight while he wrestles with his “issues.” That sounds like a recipe for a triple-decker ham and quirkey sandwich with a nice, big side order of quirk fries!
Finally, there’s Kate Hudson. At first glance, there’s nothing too quirky about her. Until you realize she’s been sloppily Photoshopped into the picture. Here’s a publicity photo for the film that appears to be from the same scene depicted on the poster:
See? Kate Hudson is nowhere to be found. And something about her proportions in the poster just seem kind of…off. Like, it’s impossible that her head is really that much smaller than everyone else’s, right? It looks like two of her heads could fit inside Braff’s Swear Jar with enough room leftover for all the change he’s shoved in there. Huge Swear Jars and tiny-headed actresses: that’s so quirky it hurts. Score one for Braff, The Godfather of Quirk.
That’s all fine and dandy, but where’s the really quirky stuff? Are there any Polaroid cameras, old-fashioned unicycles, action-figure graveyards, or oddly placed “Duck Crossing” signs in the movie? That stuff should be all over the poster. Is there a character in the movie who lives in a yurt built entirely out of driftwood, exotic moss, and discarded egg cartons? Get rid of the spaceman and put THAT guy on the poster instead. Is there a scene where Kate Hudson realizes she has finally found true happiness because she is presented with a quilt made out of old Iron & Wine and The Shins T-shirts? Have her character drag it down the street on the poster. Or is there an especially poignant moment in the film’s final act where the kids say something profound, representing emotional wisdom well beyond their years, leading to the main character’s decision to give up his selfish lifestyle and focus solely on being a good father? Then just scrap the poster altogether and release that scene on YouTube and call it a “Speaking Poster” (it’s 2014 and you’re Zach Braff; you can do whatever the hell you want to). This is your long-awaited follow-up to Garden State, Braff. The time to be modest about your quirkbilities is through. Pull out the big guns and shoot your audience directly in the face at point-blank range with the largest caliber quirk you can find.
Braff is catching heat around certain corners of the internet for being behind in fulfilling some of the perks promised to his Kickstarter backers. And, so far, the film has received mixed reviews out of Sundance, although that didn’t stop it from scoring a distribution deal worth a reported $2.75 million. But let’s hope Braff and his team use some of that money to inject an extra shot of quirkpresso into the film before it’s released. Or at least use it to put out a new poster that ups the quirk quotient by about a thousand quirkcent. Otherwise, once Wish I Was Here hits theaters, there are going to be a lot of confused, disappointed, angst-ridden teens and twenty-somethings wondering WTQ (Where’s the Quirk)?!