From the very first frame (which kicks off a Gen Xer’s dream soundtrack), Tom Hanks embodies the customarily bright yet substantive tone of filmmaker Tom Tykwer. Both have a knack for maintaining an even keel in the face of ponderous matters, and together they make a perfect pair; add Hanks’ beloved Everyman persona, and it’s a good day at the movies.
Here we meet American businessman Alan, reeling from a professional failure and the ensuing breakdown of life generally. Reaching beyond midlife crisis conversations and into existential concern, Alan’s quandary threatens to overtake him in any number of ways when hope arrives in the form of a sales pitch to, of all people, a monarch. Alan’s company is bidding on a technology contract with a massive construction undertaking in Saudi Arabia, and since Alan met the king’s nephew once, he’s been tapped to make the presentation.
Thus begins an odyssey which tests every one of Alan’s sales instincts, places him physically in a situation in which he’s as unmoored as he is emotionally, and epitomizes the sink-or-swim reality of his life. In customary fashion, writer/director/composer Tykwer takes us on a journey with a destination far from what we imagine, and dazzles us with its beauty along the way – from sweeping landscape visuals to marvelous musical accompaniments to surprising moments of interpersonal connection, and in this case, much laughter. (I’ll sign up for more Alexander Black any day, can’t wait for more; his winsome Yousef is worth the price of admission alone).
Word has it that Tykwer takes a lighter tone than does source novelist Dave Eggers (I would like to have seen that), and this may be why the film doesn’t land with as profound an impact one would expect. Nevertheless, “A Hologram for the King” puts forth a variety of powerful concepts without ever trying to sway your point of view, engages in ways you don’t anticipate, amuses in ways that cheer the soul, and shakes loose any notions that what is, must be. Pair it with “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013).
Story: Still struggling to regain his footing after a career failure, an American businessman travels to Saudi Arabia to pitch a new technology to the monarch.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Character Study
Themes: Awe, Competence, Flexibility, Hope, Journeys and Quests, Legacy, Optimism, Person vs. Person,Perspective, Restoration, Self-Acceptance, Self-Care, Self-Confidence, Self-Respect, Time, Youth and Age
Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Tom Skerritt, Ben Whishaw
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Running time: 97 minutes
Houston release date: April 22, 2016
Tickets: Check IMDb.com or your local listings
Screened April 12, 2016 at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX