Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) review

What I expected from this film, and what I what I got, were two completely different things. Anything with Simon Pegg in it is at least going to be half entertaining, but here we have Pegg portray a maddeningly patronising psychiatrist, who goes around the world on a whim because he wants to understand what makes people happy. Based on the book by Fran├žois Lelord, the outcome of this story is quite obvious from the title, and we are treated to a maxim from a leading scientist studying happiness: "We should concern ourselves not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of the pursuit." Unfortunately for us, Hector's pursuit leads on a hugely entitled, selfish, and unwittingly racist jaunt across China, Tibet, an anonymous part of Africa, and eventually Los Angeles.

From the offset this film made me angry. This man can afford to live right on the side of the Thames! He can afford to just give up his practise for a while and go travelling! He has no qualms with cheating on his loving partner! He writes his findings in a little book his girlfriend gave him. When he gets to China, he ends up spending the night with a lady he met at a club. He writes "Happiness is loving two women at the same time", completely unabashedly. Later on he finds out this woman was a prostitute: "Happiness is not knowing the whole story". Despite pining for Clara (Rosamund Pike) through most of the film, at no point does he feel remorse for betraying her.

Africa is not it's constituting countries in this film, it is just "Africa", a place where poor black people love him. He manages to befriend a druglord, and somehow not get murdered by kidnappers. He also learns that its OK to be gay. Even towards the end, when he goes to Los Angeles and meets up with psychologist ex-girlfriend Agnes (Toni Collette), who is married and pregnant with her third child, he still can't help but think that she is still holding a flame for him. Hector is truly one of the most selfish people I've seen in a film. He is a sociopath with no concern for what other people feel, despite his huge outpouring of emotion that he experiences while having his brain scanned.

Hector and the Search for Happiness, directed by Peter Chelsom, is a condescending mess that uses awful tropes to convey a message that didn't need to be said. Hector finds his happiness by partaking in poverty tourism, believing that these people are happy because they don't have the distractions of living in a big Western city. The film is completely unfocused, and Hector's decisions are contradictory, leaving you completely frustrated by the end. 
In short, it's insulting to its audience. According to this movie, happiness is having your cake and eating it too.



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