20 feb. 2015

Hector and the Search for Happiness (4/10): Not such a happy experience at all

“How many of us I wonder can recall that childhood moment when we experienced happiness as a state of being”

In Hector and the Search for Happiness, you’re more likely to leave the theater with too sweet of a taste in your mouth than actually happy because the comedy is schmaltzy and generic. The dialogue is corny at times, which I can’t say for sure if it’s the screenplay’s fault or the popular novel it was adapted from written by Francois Lelord because I’m unfamiliar with it. I just felt that most of the characters introduced in the film were stereotypical and only served the purpose of developing the story. The plot is pretty simple and straightforward: Hector (Simon Pegg) is a middle aged psychiatrist who gets tired of his routine life and decides to travel in search for happiness. He leaves his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), and tells her he can’t help his patients to be happy if he doesn’t feel happy. This is where his adventures begin as he travels across Asia, Africa, and North America meeting different characters who give him different versions of how to find happiness. The first of course takes place in China where he meets a wealthy businessman named Edward (Stellan Skarsgard) who tells him that happiness can be bought with money. He later searches for happiness in a one night stand with a girl he meets at a nightclub. The film practically takes us around the globe introducing us to new characters who play typical roles (a rich businessman, a monk, a family woman, a drug dealer, a volunteer doctor, and an old flame). Along the way he writes the different approaches these people have towards happiness, and I just found it a bit too simple and corny. The film does move along at an interesting pace thanks to the lead performance from Simon Pegg who is always a delight on screen. He has charisma and a sharp sense of humor, but this time he was held back by the script.   

It is no secret that Simon Pegg has done his best work in Edgar Wright films alongside Nick Frost. Despite being charismatic there isn’t much he can do when given a weak script. The film at times feels offensive in the way they portray some of these foreign characters (especially the scenes in Africa). I also felt the relationship between his character and Rosamund Pike’s a bit uneven. At first Pike is portrayed as the perfectly neat girlfriend who is always helping Hector in keeping his routine. She’s kind of like the cool girl from her Gone Girl speech and does everything that she thinks is expected from her. This somehow isn’t working for Hector because he feels unhappy and that apparent chemistry disappears. Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer, and Toni Collette are some of the familiar faces that have supporting roles in this movie, but not much is done with their characters. They are only introduced in Hector’s life as a way to give him a different approach of how one can find happiness in life. Some audiences might find the sweet story approachable, but I just found it way too schmaltzy and false. The comedy didn’t work very well, although i did like some of the animated scenes that were included in the film. There is nothing fresh or original about this film and it takes a similar approach as other recent films like Eat, Pray, Love and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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