Hector and the Search for Happiness, 2014.
Directed by Peter Chelsom.
Starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgard, Toni Collette, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer.
A psychiatrist goes on a round the world journey to discover the secret to happiness.
Every year a film like Hector and the Search for Happiness is released with the strong message that happiness is right in front of you, you just have to find it. Whilst this is a strong and powerful message, the 114 minutes of this film attempt to ram this down your throat at every turn.
Simon Pegg plays the title character Hector who has the seemingly perfect life. He has an amazing home, a good career and a loving girlfriend but this isn’t enough for him. He decides that he needs to discover the secret of happiness and goes on a journey across the world to discover this. It’s difficult to dislike Simon Pegg having seen him in the Cornetto Trilogy, Spaced and so on, but in this film it is extremely difficult to route for him. Take for example the treatment of his girlfriend Clara (an underused Rosamund Pike). He abandons her with little notice and then on the first night of his adventure he almost cheats on her. When they reconnect via Skype he then gets angry that she is still going out and enjoying her life. All of these make Hector an unlikeable character and his moment of catharsis at the end of the film has little effect.
This is not to say that Hector and the Search for Happiness is a bad film. It has a few good comedy moments and the performances are quite good. It all just feels quite pleasant and there’s no new ground being broken. Peter Chelsom manages to inject some fun into the film with animated sequences and an ingenious way of filming a bumpy plane ride, but these are just small touches.
Simon Pegg is given more acting responsibility than in any of his other efforts and he does well with what he is given. A scene involving a kidnapping shows that he has depth as an actor and as a person he is inherently likeable. But the character of Hector almost leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you remember some of the things he’s done throughout the film. Although the film is not a resounding success, it has shown that Pegg is ready to take on meatier roles and the glimpses of darkness we saw in The World’s End and Shaun of the Dead weren’t a fluke.
Alongside Pegg we have an array of cameos throughout Hector’s journey. Firstly we meet rich banker Stellan Skarsgard, then drug baron Jean Reno, old flame Toni Collette, scientist Christopher Plummer and so on. Plummer is the best of supporting cast and seems to have fun with the small role that he’s been given. But this is ultimately Pegg’s film and he does manage to pull it off to a certain extent.
One of the problems with Hector and the Search for Happiness is that the whole film feels structured to constantly remind you that you’re watching a feel good film. Hector helps wounded children in Africa, Hector meets with Buddhist monks; Hector helps a dying woman and so on. Everything has been crafted to pull on your heart strings but the experiment simply hasn’t worked and we’re left with an overlong film that feels cheesy rather than heartfelt.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★