A Hologram for the King (2016)
dir. Tom Tykwer
written by: Tom Tykwer
starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury
2.5 out of 4 stars
I’m not sure whether it is because I am neither a middle aged man in a professional and personal crisis nor a postmodernist millennial in constant need of examining all that needn’t be examined, but Dave Eggers’ National Book Award nominated novel A Hologram for the King did not speak to me at any memorable level. The story of a failed Schwinn bicycle executive playing the waiting game to present an I.T. solution to the King of Saudi Arabia left my mind wheeling solely at the accolades for a book none too touching and hardly universal in its reach and importance. The reason why Tom Tykwer wanted to adapt this story to the screen baffled my adaptation brain. Maybe it resonated with his position in life, but this man-in-crisis plot portrayed nothing notable for cinematic exposure.
Tom Tykwer, learning bits from his mixed but lovely Cloud Atlas, approaches writing duty wisely. The book provides far too much postmodern existentialism and self-doubt to ever sell a movie. Alan Clay, the failed businessman of the story, presents downward spiral with ample regret and uncertainty. The character in the book loops ill-advised behavior while at a loss for control in his life. Tykwer took our other Tom (Hanks) in a different direction for his adaptation.
Rather than the doldrums of repeated helplessness, the mood was lightened for the Tom Hanks audience. Alan Clay and crew do not wait around for nearly as long. Clay doesn’t have night after night of the same behavior. We bounce from delay, to anger, to lonely and sad, to much happier. The waiting was not examined, so the pace felt almost optimistic compared to the novel. This team was going to get things done, but not without Alan worrying about the lump on his back and the woman who treats it.
The unexpected uptick in mood may have made the movie more friendly, but it did not make it more humorous. Tom Hanks is expectedly capable with the momentum of the film. Clay’s sudden take charge behavior brought about Hank’s strongest laughs. Hank’s driver and almost friend Yousef (Alexander Black) portrayed an enthusiastic but light touch to the movie. Alan’s Doctor Zahra provides a steady hand for Alan’s confused time. Sarita Choudhury opens the reserved doctor slightly on an emotional level, but far more in physicality.
The editing was the strongest point. Dream sequences and abrupt exits maintain some of the source’s uncertainty. Otherwise the movie was not an advancement on the material. The novel didn’t draw me in but the reduced sardonic bite of the widish release schedule lost its driving point. This turned into a forgettable Sunday morning matinee from a more adventurous director.