[Review] - Hector And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Courtesy of Egoli Tossell Films
I'm not big on happiness. Not the emotion - everyone likes being happy, even Eeyore - but the philosophical concept of happiness. A boogeyman of spiritual enlightenment and personal fulfillment, something to be endlessly strived for and eternally out of reach. And in the modern day, something that can be used to sell desperate people lots of books and videos and tickets to wellness retreats that promise secrets that are never delivered. All in the name of the pursuit of happiness. Personally, I think being happy all the time would be akin to being depressed all the time. It's still an overwhelming and unhealthy amount of emotion, and like finally being able to eat nothing but desert for every single meal, soon enough you'd be begging for some broccoli.

I'd like to say that Hector and the Pursuit of Happiness found a new way to explore these old and tired themes, but it hasn't. It's the same old nonsense that gets trotted out, which is a clear an indicator as there being no secret, when the only things we can come up with as being secrety sound like they've come from the inside of a fortune cookie. The film should be called Hector and His First World Problems, because that's all that this, and most of the business of "discovering happiness" really is. It's people who are over saturated with so much buzz that they feel that downsizing, or observing those with less yet are somehow happier will provide them with great insight into their own moral quagmire. Really, this is just arrogant, delusional self aggrandizing tosh. And it's tosh that Hector swims in.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which know this review is as bad as they think it is.


I'll give Hector credit over other Eat Prey Love style journeys of self discovery stories, in that unlike the majority of those types of films, Hector has an almost fetish-like fascination with how bad things really are. It does manage to keep the film from being completely self indulgent as Hector, successful London psychiatrist jet sets across the globe in First Class, routinely has his notions of happiness deflated when he ends up kidnapped by drug dealers or watching a woman die of a brain tumour.

If the film had decided to follow that thread, that happiness cannot be a physical concept to be discovered like the Nile, then maybe it might have meant something. Instead, it stuck with the tried and repulsive method of having a white man spend a few weeks seeing how the rest of the world lives, then pulled a Wizard of Oz in discovering that he had happiness all along, and was too distracted by the perils of a 21st century existence to notice. It's drivel, meant to make the shallow nod in parroted appreciation.

What save the film from being a complete write-off is the cast, which are so irrepressibly likable that you can't help but get caught up in their journey. They aren't particularly likable characters, but as this film might say, happiness is finding the nugget in the turd. It is anchored by the performances of Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike, who have fantastic chemistry despite not sharing a lot of screen time. It makes you wish to watch them together in a better film, which you can, as they contrived to appear in this together whilst filming The World's End. Here, they elevate the material beyond itself.

The rest of the film is stocked with a treasure trove of talent, all of which is utterly wasted. As Hector journeys from China to Africa to Los Angeles, he is accompanied by a ghost of happiness past, an elder actor in the form of Christopher Plummer, Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgard, who are meant to teach Hector some critical lesson on his journey. Mostly, they turn their cameos into little distractions, adding less to the morality of the whole and more to the audience's puzzlement as to what exactly the filmmakers meant by including them. Reno gets the most fun out of his scant moments, and poor Plummer is relegated to a boyish hippy clapping his hand and pointing at meaningless CGI.

There are moments when it betrays itself, and showcases what the film could have been. Throughout, fantasy sequences and animation nudge at the edges of the screen, begging to be let in and allowed to be interesting. The opening sequence, for instance, which put me in ind of the original Muppet Movie, was full of quirky promise. Sadly, it never fully materializes, leaving only a half baked spud. It's a shame that the writers took an easy way out of a difficult situation, rather than using the opportunity to broach the subject with new insight (and I am aware that the film is adapted for a book, which I've not read, but if the film is a faithful adaptation, then the same goes for the novel's author too).
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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