Dr. Donna Copeland’s
SIMON PEGG ROSAMUND PIKE TONI COLLETTE
STELLAN SKARSGARD JEAN RENO CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
Much like the film journeys of Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love or Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Hector and the Search for Happiness follows that same type of path toward the same predictable conclusion. However, even as the film literally spells out for us that “comparisons can spoil your happiness”, or that “happiness is in the journey”, it’s impossible not to expect and compare since we have seen this story so recently. The good news is that that Simon Pegg does some of his best performance work here, running a gammot of emotions. Hector might not have the budget of a Mitty movie but it’s got more heart.
Hector (Pegg) is a psychiatrist bored with his mundane, predictable and colorless life. His girlfriend Clara (Pike) doesn’t help much as she caters to him, packs his lunch and is seemingly comfortable with their routine. Hector realizes he isn’t helping his patients and when he reaches the end of his rope, he snaps and realizes he needs to find what makes him happy in order to help his patients get to the same place. Hector says goodbye to Clara, heads for China, and his adventure begins. Clara gives him, her blessing and tells him if he is going to do this, to really do it.
These types of films are most effective for those who find themselves in the same rut that Hector is in. Needing a change of scenery, a new adventure, making amends with the past. They work as sort of a live vicariously through the character story, in hopes that while the audience can’t experience the same journey they can experience some of the same conclusion. Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Star Trek) has left behind his quirky films for more serious and even starring roles. His charisma and charm is more accessible than Julia Roberts character who mostly only spoke for women, or Ben Stiller’s who seemed alienated and bitter.
China, Africa and then Los Angeles are the locations Hector’s self-discovery takes place. Each with their own A-list actor in almost a cameo role to leave an impression and help him out of a tough situation. Hector jots down in his journal the answers he gets when asking others what makes him happy, each prolific statement like “Happiness is being loved for who you are,” get him one step closer to the realization that all these characters in all these self-discovery films find. Director Peter Chelsom is no stranger to the feel good film, Shall We Dance and The Mighty are two of his better ones. Still Hector has its charm, especially for those who missed the other films that came before it.
Final Thought – Charming, cute and sweet, but not particularly life changing or prolific.
By: Dustin Chase
A delightful tale. Hector (Pegg) is a psychiatrist with seemingly everything—beautiful, devoted girlfriend, lovely house, busy practice—but he can’t quite pinpoint something he is missing. So he goes on an extended leave to China, Africa and Los Angeles to research happiness and find out whether he is happy with his life or not. That should tell you something about Hector. He could use some insight into himself, no?
His girlfriend Clara (Pike) is nervous about his going, because she is worried about what it implies about their relationship. This is a very clever and funny theme throughout the movie—that people consistently project their own “stuff” into what someone else is saying, thereby missing the speaker’s intended message. Nevertheless, Clara gives Hector her blessing, and tucks a little gift of a journal in his luggage so he can keep a record of his findings. He is delighted, and heads out
Although Hector says he has no friends in his life, he is a pleasant fellow and picks up very generous hosts along the way. For instance, on the plane to China his wealthy but disgruntled seatmate (Scarsgard) ends up showing him a glorious good time in Shanghai. Next on the agenda is Africa, where Hector assists an old friend at a clinic. Getting there is not easy, but as usual Hector meets a generous native along the way, and she invites him for pumpkin stew in her village. His path also crosses that of a drug dealer, which is a mixed blessing. There is an even more hair-raising sequence where Hector gets kidnapped and abused. Hector dutifully interviews all these people—even his captors—and writes conclusions in his journal, which, miraculously, stays with him the whole way.
British director Peter Chelson contributed to the script (along with Maria von Heland and Tinker Lindsay), based on a French novel by Francois Lelord. The story is fairly well written, with passion, humor, pathos, and sadness all in the mix. Pacing is timely, but there are few surprises. Perhaps it not being more stellar is that there were 26 producers involved!
Pegg embodies the rather disorganized but sweet character Hector, who may bumble around, but finally gets things right. Pegg, Pike and the rest of the cast, comprise a very talented ensemble of actors in settings in the U.S. and beyond to China and Africa.
Researching happiness—what will Hector find?
By: Donna Copeland