Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


A Hologram for the King

A Hologram for the King
Starring:
Tom Hanks, Tom Skerritt, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury and Sidse Babett Knudsen


Rated: R for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 22, 2016 Released by: Roadside Attractions

The second collaboration between Tom Hanks and Tom Tykwer after a sweeping magnum opus like Cloud Atlas is closer to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with an interesting comedic, abstract surreal quality that works for awhile. Anyway, before things dry up rather abruptly at least in a better place for someone at last unless you're in the audience. Some of the film's enjoyment can be gleaned from the soundtrack as The Talking Heads are heard before a rollercoaster ride begins.

A Hologram For The King (based on the 2012 best-seller from Dave Eggers) has Hanks's Boston-based salesman Alan Clay in a middle-aged rut personally with his critical ex-wife and daughter looking for university tuition (seen via Skype). As well as professionally when it came to the outsourcing of Schwinn bicycles to China which disapproving dad (Tom Skerritt) harps on.

A "fish out of water" scenario ensues when the downtrodden, seemingly washed-up guy gets an opportunity to peddle titular software teleconferencing at King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia (handsomely shot in Egypt and Morocco). But, his IT crew aren't given ideal lodging with not very reliable Wi-Fi so a little help from some new acquaintances is needed for Alan to change his past misfortunes.

He'll get some help from the likes of a taxi driver (Alexander Black), a doctor (Sarita Choudhury) and a Danish payroll contractor closer to his age (Sidse Babett Knudsen) even Clay devours his share of disappointments between breakfast and dinnertime, suffering from jet lag and the obvious culture shock.

This German-American comedy-drama with Hanks and collaborator Gary Goetzman as part of the producing team has the actor (last seen in the acclaimed Bridge of Spies) responding in empathetic fashion with a character not easy to warm up to because of an innate affability; which seems like an ideal casting choice.

The metaphoric nature of the enterprise with Tykwer at the helm doesn't really position Hanks as optimally as he could have been as an uneven if striking cinematic chimera unfolds. Choudhury's Zahura is the right person for a cyst on Alan's back and for his romantic yearnings after an earlier encounter, but it's sketchy how she would be interested in him though an attraction to a Westerner amidst the governmental hierarchy could make for a bold statement. Their relationship oddly enervates a good portion of the second half when other underlying strands provide some kick with some fantastical interludes.

Knudsen's Hanne gets him access to hedonistic proclivities as some may be reminded of what Hanks's shady Texas congressman was around in Charlie Wilson's War. American not Arab thespian Black (read: diversity issue) playing cabbie Yousef turns out to be a scene-stealer like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was in the late Mike Nichols drama as welcome comic relief. Nonetheless, the filmmaking doesn't do justice to the éclat of Eggers with his germane, acerbic poignancy, kind of flickering like the hologram (where Ben Whishaw appears) in not so regal fashion.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
A Hologram for the King  C      C+   B+                  B- 

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