Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014): Simply Sublime

Still from trailer for Hector and the Search for Happiness

Despite having worked as a “film critic” and being a member of the Nevada Film Critics Society, I am not jaded enough to find the 2014 film Hector and the Search for Happiness anything other than simply sublime. Reading various reviews and finding that the film opened to mixed and negative reviews surprises and disappoints. Simon Pegg is truly wonderful as are his co-stars in the film and Rosamund Pike works brilliantly in this far removed from Gone Girl role.

Helmed by award winning English director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Shall We Dance) from a script adapted from the French book of the same name by François Lelord, the film follows the journey of Hector, a psychiatrist who is fed up with his relationship, his job and his life. He undertakes a trip to discover just what happiness is and how to get it.

In many ways the movie is like an exotic travelogue. Pegg’s character visits Singapore, Africa and America in his journey. Like a modern day Phileas Fogg, just without the balloon, Passepartout or indeed the wager that gets the whole thing started, Hector travels to several different countries meeting new people and old friends in his search.

Hector and the Search for Happiness also has a bit of an Alan Whicker or Michael Palin (the old Monty Python member who traded in his comedy chops for travel documentaries) feel, where the main figure learns of other cultures and how they see the world. Even before finding out that the film is based on a French novel, one can tell by the structure of the film and its plot that this could very easily have been a film from that country.

The use of cardboard cutouts in the plane scene, the flashbacks to childhood and the feeling of the film is one of arthouse chic. This combined with the simplicity of its message must have put off the more serious minded critics who reviewed the movie at the cinema.

Leaving such pretentious prattling behind and looking at the cast, the film delivers brilliantly. Stellan Skarsgård drops his Norwegian accent, and leaves the world of the Avengers behind, to become Edward; a richer than rich businessman who insists that one can buy happiness. Jean Reno leaves his badge and assassins tools at home to play an African drug lord who trusts no one but loves his wife completely.

Christopher Plummer uses his dulcet tones to narrate and play the small cameo of a professor who uses a machine that looks like an old fashioned hair dryer to track emotions in the human brain. Toni Collette plays Hector’s former flame with perfection.

The end of the film moved me to schmaltzy tears as Pegg discovers a few home truths. (I’ll not say what they are, no spoilers here.) His journey may not be life shattering over all, although at one point it looks as though Hector may not survive, but it is interesting enough to keep the viewer watching.

*On a side note, I did notice that just as in real life, all airport terminals do indeed look the same no matter where they are.*

Sure, some of the signposts are a bit stereo-graphical in nature but that does not spoil the message of the film or take away our delight when Hector finishes his search. Despite what other reviewers have said about this particular offering my verdict is a full 5 stars. Any film that can make me cry in Burger King in front of strangers, without the darkness of a cinema to hide my blushes, gets full marks. Hector and the Search for Happiness is streaming on US Netflix now. Watch this one and enjoy, unless you are too sophisticated for it.

Rihanna Plus Instagram Equals Arrest

Rihanna Plus Instagram Equals Arrest

Rihanna took a break from her Diamonds World Tour and traveled to Phuket Thailand. After chilling on the beach, she stopped to take an Instagram selfie with a slow loris and posted it on the internet. The primate was on her shoulder and she added a caption about the little bundle of fur “talkin dirty” to her

Of Mosh Pits and Concerts

English: Willie Nelson and his guitar "Tr...
English: Willie Nelson and his guitar “Trigger” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was 53 years old before I found out what a ‘mosh’ pit was. And yes before you ask, if you did your maths right, that was this year. I only discovered what it was after reading an article on the BBC News website.

Not being a devotee of concerts (I have only been to two in my almost 54 years on this earth) I didn’t have a clue. It’s not that I don’t like ‘live’ music. On the contrary, I’ve seen enough live performances at clubs and the like for years. I can see you shaking your head in disgust now, “Only two concerts? Only…two? What a boring life you’ve had.”

In my defence I can only say the timing of concerts has, as a rule, always precluded my attendance. Only twice in my life has everything come together just right for me to attend proper ‘live’ performance.

In 1977 I went to my first concert. It was Willie Nelson and it was kind of accidental that I went at all. I had met a young blonde girl who worked as a waitress at the local Coney Island hot dog eatery. On a bet from a mate, I asked her out on a date.

Now this bet was not because she was ugly or overweight or strange looking. No, the bet was because the girl was gorgeous. My mate bet me that I could not get this heavenly creature to go on a date with me. I can only think that she was taking pity on the shy gawky teenager who tried first flirting then awkwardly asked what music she liked. This was my mate’s suggestion as he reckoned that as Fayetteville was a university town there would have to be a concert of some kind going on.

“Chicks just can’t turn down a rock gig dude.”

Amazingly she accepted, even after finding out that the concert was not of the rock variety. She was a Willie Nelson fan and was quite excited at the prospect of going. I secured two of the rapidly disappearing tickets (Nelson was and still is wildly popular) I rang her to say I had tickets in hand. We set up a time for me to collect her and that was that.

Or so I thought.

Between the phone call and the collection date, I met my first wife.

She worked in a local burger joint. One that I did not like to frequent because I’d once gotten a huge lump of soap in my milkshake there when they’d not cleaned their machines properly. I had a mate, not the same one that I’d been in Coney Island with, who was having a tough patch. He asked me go with him to the burger joint, I went along and made a note not to order a milkshake. As we were walking through the door and I was loudly telling him not to order a milkshake as they had soap in them, I looked toward the service counter and stopped dead in my tracks.

Behind one of the tills stood the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in the short time I’d been on earth.

I turned to my mate and said, “You see that girl there? I’m going to marry her.”

The first thing I did was march up to her till and ask her to attend the Willie Nelson concert with me. My mate stood at my side and his jaw dropped open. I then proceeded to talk her out of her current relationship with her boyfriend. By the time I left that night I had a different date for the concert and a new girlfriend. I ‘blew off’ the other girl (ah the cruelty of youth, although to be honest, she didn’t seem that bothered) and we went to the concert.

The moment the lights dimmed, a great cloud of pot smoke rose from the stage floor. In minutes we were engulfed in the stuff. I was so nervous that I was almost hyperventilating and was getting as high as a kite on the second hand reefer cloud. Before the music started, I noticed that my aunt and uncle were in the row in front of us. We started to chat and I went to introduce my new girl to them.

As I went to give them her name, my mind blanked completely. I would get to the bit where I’d say, “and this is…” Nothing that even remotely resembled a name appeared in my head. Everyone had a good laugh, except for my new girl, she was a bit irritated but managed to hide it fairly well.

I still blame it on the pot.

I would not attend another concert till I went to London with my daughter to see a visual Kei band a few years back. *I did write about that lovely experience in my blog, The Night My Ears Exploded.*

So it’s not surprising really that I never knew until today what a ‘mosh pit‘ was.

I wonder what I’ll learn next?

Mosh pit.
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