Hector and the Search for Happiness, the Peter Chelsom-directed comedy about a psychiatrist who uproots his mundane life to find adventure, turns tedious quickly. This predictable tale of a man-child wavers despite a promising first act. (JLH: 3.5/5)
Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku.
The screenplay, co-written by Maria von Heland, finds “Hector” (Simon Pegg) as a fairly comfortable psychiatrist working at his established practice in London. He has everything in his life under control – he knows his trade, he has a set routine and he lives with his beautiful, babying girlfriend “Clara” (Rosamund Pike). She takes care of all his needs from making breakfast and doing laundry to bringing in a second income and organizing life “just so.” Hector has feathered his bed so wonderfully to the point of boredom, making him feel like he’s lost the meaning of life. How can he make his patients happy if he doesn’t understand what happiness is? Hector decides to take a sabbatical and leave his practice for an undefined amount of time to go off on a worldwide adventure in search of happiness. Clara, stunned by her boyfriend’s radical decision, isn’t sure whether he’s leaving her or if she should wait for him. Before he leaves, she gives him an empty notebook and tells him to write down all his adventures so he can eventually write a book. She gives him permission to go but can’t promise she’ll be there if and when he gets back.
As Hector flies off with nothing but his notebook, the film uses animated dream sequences to show flashbacks of his childhood adventures, sitting in a trees and playing with his dog. None of the flashbacks are every flushed out, however, since its main focus is to show Hector finding happiness in the here-and-now. For his first adventure, Hector is upgraded to business class on his flight to China and happens to be sitting next to wealthy businessman “Edward,” (Stellan Skarsgård). After befriending each other for the duration of their London-to-China flight, Edward upgrades Hector’s hotel and takes him out for a night on the town where a beautiful, young Chinese woman flirts with him. When she and Hector go back to his hotel room, she’s too drunk to make love and ends up falling asleep. He’s blown away by the beauty of her naked body lying next to him, but instead of anything about it, he takes her for tea the next morning at a sidewalk café not knowing a tough biker would come by and grab her. When Hector asks, “Why are you taking her away?” the man tells him, “Because your friend only paid for last night. He didn’t pay for today.” When depressed Hector realizes the beautiful Chinese student he spent the night with was a prostitute, he jets off on a number of crazy adventures from seeing the snowy monasteries in Tibet to getting kidnapped by gorillas in Africa.
The first half of Hector and the Search for Happiness is actually interesting. The fantasy aspects of the film worked with the drawings of his dreams coming to life and his sketches in his book from Clara leaping off the page. Besides that, the film turns tedious because of the predictable and overly clean adventures. Childlike Hector preposterously never sleeps with anyone else even when Clara gives him permission to go off and have the adventures he desires. Besides the animations, it was a disappointing film too similar to last year’s Ben Stiller remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I liked a whole lot better.
Review © Jan Lisa Huttner (10/01/14)
Photo: Simon Pegg as “Hector” during one of his adventures
Q: Does Hector and the Search for Happiness pass the Bechdel Test?