Film Review | Hector and the Search for Happiness
Just last year audiences were treated to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which saw Ben Stiller undertake a world-traversing voyage to understand the meaning of life. This time it’s Simon Pegg trying to get in touch with his happy-self in Hector and the Search for Happiness. Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, and directed by Peter Chelsom, Simon Pegg plays our dissatisfied protagonist Hector; a quirky psychiatrist who realises his methods aren’t helping his patients, and so embarks on a trip around the world in a bid to discover the secret of happiness.
Among the destinations Hector jaunts too are Shanghai, The Himalayas and more. Chelsom does well to capture the energy of the various locales, and if nothing else the aesthetics in Hector are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the tight budget. As for the film’s relatable messages, the bulk of them hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which it’s executed leaves much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem in the unfocused screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s ultimate realization is extremely sudden and feels like it comes out of nowhere. To paraphrase Rosamund Pike’s Clara, who plays Hector’s girlfriend, “you have to build to it”. Pike makes good use of her screen time but she is severely underused here.
Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Though the actor proves up to the task in the emotional moments and does his best to imbue Hector with likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A prime example of Hector’s less than endearing decision-making comes when he cheats on his girlfriend days after departing for his voyage. A supporting cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette is always going to class up proceedings, and they are all enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is little cohesive power between their characters’ musings on happiness.
It’s not as profound as it thinks it is, and the screenplay disappoints more than it impresses, but Hector and the Search for Happiness is a harmless, solidly performed romp. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment should be satisfied.
This review was originally published at HeyUGuys.