While it is admirable when an actor tries to push himself by taking on a different type of role, the results are often mixed. Tom Hanks certainly is attempting to push himself by taking on the role of Alan Clay (a depressed IT Salesman who’s going through a midlife crisis). However, when an actor is far too established as an upbeat leading man, everything else comes off as less than believable. Such is the case with A Hologram For The King (in theaters this weekend).
Alan Clay is relatively new in the world of technological sales. He originally worked for Schwinn as an executive but left shortly after being involved in a decision to outsource jobs that still haunts him daily. Alan went through a horrendous divorce; his daughter does not talk to him, he cannot afford to pay for her college, and seems to have some growth on his back (you can see why he is depressed). Clay is hoping that securing this deal in Saudia Arabia to help him out of this malaise.
Much of the movie is shaped around Alan’s repetitive routine. Alan’s starts his morning off by showering and ends his day (after working) by feeling sorry for himself. This is much of what transpires in this film (yes, I agree … very odd). Alan’s depression seeps even into his love life as he turns away the advances of a very attractive Danish woman because he does not feel worthy (yes, I agree … very strange).
It all changes while on a business trip to Saudi Arabia, his back takes a turn for the worse, and he falls for his physician Zahara (Sarita Choudhury). If Twyker had taken the film in the direction of Alan having to deal with cultural barriers as he pursued Zahara, this movie could have been so much better than it was. Instead, years of tradition were simply ignored, and Zahara and Alan got together. Never mind that women in Saudia Arabia are not allowed just simply to drive wherever they want, in this universe, it is apparently acceptable. The lack of a “struggle” to get the girl of his dreams detracted from the chemistry in the film. Their “love affair” comes across as an act of convenience and nothing more.
This movie is a prime example of how not every film should be adapted for the big screen. While Tom Twyker certainly gives it his best shot to adapt the Dave Eggers novel, the source material presents an insurmountable issue. A Hologram For The King is a novel that is rife with many small subplots in it all centering around Alan Clay. In a novel that is okay, but in a film that’s a recipe for disaster. If you adapt directly from the source material (which is what they did), the result is a bunch of stories all going in different directions (basically a meandering mess).
No one can fault Tom Hanks for taking a chance on this type of role. However, there’s a vast difference between taking a chance and succeeding, and his performance is far from a success.