That search for our reason and our purpose for being here on this planet is always an elusive one but at the end of the day all anybody really wants is to find some sort of happiness the best way that they can. “Hector and the Search for Happiness” isn’t without some genuine moments but it is mostly a silly look at the malaise of the affluent that is mostly too dull to be genuinely insulting,
Hector (Simon Pegg) seemingly has a perfect life. With his beautiful and well ordered girlfriend (Rosamund Pike), his fantastic psychiatric practice and a gorgeous London flat, but it just isn’t enough. This eccentrically ordinary guy is losing patience, not only with his patience but with his entire life. Determined to make a change and find out what it truly means to be happy, Hector sets out on a journey of a lifetime and meets new friends (Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno), catches up with old flames (Toni Collette) as he traverses the globe and risks much more then he would ever expect on his quest to find out what it means to be happy.
While it does touch on some fairly profound life lessons, too much of “Hector and the Search for Happiness” was just too slight to resonate on any legitimate emotional level as the plight of a well to do upper middle class guy isn’t all the compelling even when played by the charming Simon Pegg.
Co-writer and director Peter Chelsom take from the French novel of the same name but ultimately forget to remove any of the inherent arrogance in the material. Chelsom shoots it quite well as we don’t have moments of fantasy and whimsy but it never really commits as the first third or so of the movie is us having to confront and deal with a guy who should by all accounts be happy but just isn’t.
Hector feels like a fraud and that he isn’t truly living his life, but as an audience we just don’t give a damn. He’s living a pretty damn good life and while I don’t discount the possibilities for ennui and depression with ones day to day existence, leaving on a globe hopping expedition seems a little extreme, even for an eccentric guy like Hector. The movie just asks us to take far too much on faith and to not suspend our disbelief that no matter how charming and quirky Hector maybe, he’s also being pretty damn selfish. The movie will create wish gratification in some but in other it will generate a cynical sense of self as its message of how hard it is to be an upper middle class professional, so has to go to China, Africa and Los Angeles to find himself. What’s even worse is that in the context of this story, only Los Angeles makes sense because that is where his girlfriend is, the others are simply to be adventurous and vain because this guy can’t get over himself and his own neurosis.
Simon Pegg has neurotic and crazy down to a loveable and slightly pathetic art form and even though the material doesn’t give him a whole of a lot to work there are actually some quiet and more sincere moments in the film that actually play pretty reasonably. Rosamund Pike is pretty out there as his loving yet somewhat emotionally unstable girlfriend but outside of them and the interesting people he meets on his journeys, none of the characters really have any motivations or any qualities that make them even remotely interesting, they are just there…and that isn’t enough no matter how good the intentions were or the spirit of the message was.
When all is said and done, “Hector and the Search for Happiness” is just a well intentioned failure. It has some moments, but never tackles any emotional issues other than the terribly superficial and it affects the overall movie going experience, if it had tried to dig a little deeper maybe it could have been a bit more profound while still being funny, but in this form it is just too slight and flimsy to resonate with audiences.
2 out of 5 stars.
“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is now playing at theatres everywhere, please check with local listings for show times.