A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING — Review by Susan Granger

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Divorced, broke and unable to pay his daughter’s college tuition, Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is introduced in an angst-filled, fantasy dream sequence, singing Talking Head’s “Once in a Lifetime.” Apparently chosen for this job because of some vague connection to the Royal family, Clay is an affable, middle-aged American businessman who arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, determined to sell a 3D holographic communications system to King Abdullah. Read on…

Jet-lagged, Clay oversleeps his first day on the job, forcing him to find a driver-for-hire, wise-cracking Yousef (comedian Alexander Black), to take him to the King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade (KMET), where Clay and his clueless IT team of three millennials are stuck in a tent in the middle of a construction site surrounded by camel-strewn desert.

Disoriented, unsettled and impatient, Clay must not only deal with the obvious cultural differences he encounters in this eerie model city but also his existential loneliness and need to rediscover a sense of purpose.

It’s two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks’ heartfelt performance that propels your interest, particularly when a flashback reveals Clay’s father (Tom Skerritt) berating him for outsourcing of American jobs at the Schwinn Bicycle Company.

As days pass while waiting for the King or, at least, his liaison to arrive, Clay discovers a large cyst on his back; this metaphoric growth, he fears, is sapping his strength and vigor. Which leads him to seek help from a sympathetic Saudi physician, Zahra Hakem (Sarita Choudhury), as a subtle relationship develops.

Adapted from Dave Eggers’ 2012 novel by German writer/director Tom Twyker (“Run Lola Run,” “Cloud Atlas”), it’s a timely, if trifling allegory about malaise and globalization, not far removed from Jack Lemmon’s “Save the Tiger” (1973), Bill Murray’s “Lost in Translation” (2003) and Ewan MacGregor’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (2011).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Hologram for the King” is a strangely stylized, absurdist 6, so it’s not surprising that the epigraph comes from Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”: “It is not every day that we are needed.”

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.