Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“Hector And The Search For Happiness”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new comedy-drama, “Hector And The Search For Happiness”, starring Simon Pegg, Jean Reno and Toni Collette. 


When a psychiatrist leaves his girlfriend behind so he can globetrot in order to find out the keys to being happy, will she still be there upon his return?


Hector (Pegg) is a London-based psychiatrist whose day-to-day life is fairly predictable – and he seems to like it that way.  In fact, there’s very little that’s changed for him over the years – his clothing, his daily routine and the rate he charges his clients.  But all the while, he listens to the people whom he treats and only hears how miserable each of them are.  Frustrated because he doesn’t have an answer as to how he can improve their situation, he soon begins to suspect that perhaps he’s suffering from a similar malady.  Is he happy?  Is anyone happy?  Is his girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) happy?  How do you even know if you’re happy?  Most of all, how do you become happy?

Coming to the realization that he won’t find the answers to these questions by staying in the office of his private practice, Hector decides that he must travel the world to see how other people live and maintain a happy lifestyle despite the obstacles fate throws in their path.  When he breaks the news to Clara, she is mildly supportive, but also worried since it’s clear that she won’t be able to accompany him on this trip.  Is he dissatisfied with their relationship?  Will this be the first step in the process of a break-up?  While not trying to talk him out of it, she anticipates the experience with great trepidation.

Starting off in China, Hector meets Edward (Stellan Skarsgård), a multi-millionaire, during the plane ride; using his deep pockets, Edward shows Hector the time of his life, giving him some clues as to the source of happiness.  Hector then moves on to Africa, where he unexpectedly makes the acquaintance of Diego (Reno), a dangerous drug lord whom he happens to befriend – inadvertently teaching him about happiness.  Finally, Hector winds up in Los Angeles, where he looks up Agnes (Collette), an old flame from college, so he can get some closure on their relationship.  All during his travels, he keeps in touch with Clara, who is becoming increasingly nervous about whether or not Hector will return to her.  But by the time Hector decides to come home, will Clara still be there or will she have moved on by now?       


In movie viewing, one of the most uncomfortable things you can experience is when a comedic actor makes an awkward stab at grabbing the ever-elusive brass ring known as gravitas.  Perhaps the last time I can recall seeing this is when I attended a screening of Ben Stiller’s “Walter Mitty” at last year’s New York Film Festival (reviewed here).  Once again, it occurs with Simon Pegg in “Hector And The Search For Happiness”.  The irony is not lost that these two films are very similar in that the theme is two men who traverse the globe in the hope that each will find himself. 

“Hector” runs a wide range from broad comedy to tragic and dangerous moments; the film makes an attempt to run the gamut of emotions, never quite making us genuinely feel any of them.  The jokes are clownish and it can be a bit of a challenge to take Pegg’s character seriously when the scenes call for the audience to do so.  Rosamund Pike is as good as she can be in the role of Clara, which is really little more than mere window dressing for Pegg’s Hector; she is made to look more desperate than in love as she patiently but neurotically waits for her boyfriend’s return.

The clown always yearns to be taken seriously, and it is painfully obvious while watching “Hector And The Search For Happiness” that this was likely Pegg’s motivation for doing the motion picture in the first place.  Although the picture was based on a best-selling novel of the same name by François Lelord, the story does not translate well to the screen – at least not in this adaptation; while I’ve never read the source material, it might be the case that adapting this to the big screen was too ambitious of an undertaking. Ultimately, the character of Hector travels the world while the movie “Hector” goes absolutely nowhere. 


Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) on IMDb


No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!