Saturday, April 30, 2016

Movie Review #417: "A Hologram for the King" (2016)

Movie"A Hologram for the King"
Director: Tom Tykwer
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
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Alan (Tom Hanks) is a salesman trying to pitch his company's new product to the king of Saudi Arabia. Once arriving in the desert country, he has trouble adjusting and finds the accommodations for his team less than satisfying. Alan also has many personal problems that are taking his focus off work, leading to a series of events that may change his life.

"A Hologram for the King" is based on the novel of the same name. The book is written by Dave Eggers and has been since adapted for the screen by director Tom Tykwer. Twyker is know for his unusual films, such as "Cloud Atlas" and "Run Lola Run." He has, once again, made a somewhat unconventional film about a salesman named Alan, played by the always wonderful Tom Hanks, who is trying to sell his company's holographic conferencing system to the king of Saudi Arabia. Alan has recently gone through a bitter divorce, is having financial troubles, doesn't have a great relationship with his father, doesn't seem well respected by his boss, and has a strange growth on his back. Talk about piling on the problems, huh? Upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, Alan doesn't receive much better treatment from his hosts. People miss meetings, others don't arrive when they claim they will, and his hosts have stuck him and his team in a tent in the middle of the desert with shoddy Wi-Fi and no food. Alan is stuck in a position in his life where he's wandering aimlessly, without direction, in a midlife crisis of sorts.

Let us be clear, the problem with "A Hologram for a King" is definitely not in its acting. Tom Hanks one of the best actors on the planet, this is no lie. Even in a middle of the road movie, he acts in circles around mediocrity. Hanks is clearly the best part about this film, so it's not for his lack of trying as an actor. He plays Alan as well as any ordinary part he's played in the past. Sarita Choudhury is great, too, and she should be given more opportunities to act more in films. Together, they are a great pair.

Much like its protagonist, "A Hologram for the King" really feels like it's wandering around its run time without much direction at all. Scenes and scenarios jump from place to place with little rhyme or reason. In many ways, it's just a simple character sketch about Alan, how he comes to terms with his life how it is, and a cultural exploration of Saudi Arabia. This is blended with some flashback dream sequences about the many regrets in Alan's past. The way this is all explored feels very messy and unfortunately isn't that engaging. There is a bit of comedy here and there, some romance towards the end, and a lot of drama throughout the entire thing. This lack of clear focus makes it extremely hard to pay attention, even with the likes of Tom Hanks at the acting helm. There are many moments involving culture misunderstandings, as well as the exploration of cultural differences that do work created by its fish out of water scenario, but it's all pretty white bread. No chances are taken. It's bland and sometimes boring, and we understand that it's based off of a book, but we can't say we'd be thrilled if we were forced to read it. Luckily, Tom Hanks is there to help elevate the film just a bit.

Unfortunately, a meandering pace makes "A Hologram for the King" a bit of a task to get through. It's too many things and nothing all at the same time. It's partially a surface level romance, partially a culture clash comedy, partially a faux-deep drama about a man going through a midlife crisis. It's not terrible by any means, but its aimless nature and real lack of a plot beyond a simple character sketch hurts it in more ways than it helps it. Nothing really flows, and barring some good performances by Tom Hanks and Sarita Choudhury, this is just another film added the mediocre movie heap we cannot recommend.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 65%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were watching: "Planetary"

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