Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Movie: A Hologram For The King

A Hologram for the King:  a Tom Hanks movie.  If you’re a fan of Tom Hanks, this is a must see movie.  Hanks’ skills translate a quirky storyline into a delightful 97-minute film.  It is 2010 and we learn that Alan Clay (Hanks) is traveling to Saudi Arabia in the hopes of selling a holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government.  We also learn that Clay was once a high level executive for Schwinn Bicycles and was instrumental in closing Schwinn’s American plants and moving the jobs to China.  Clay is newly divorced and, as the movie opens, is trying to recover economically so he can afford to send his daughter to college.  His boss treats him as a has-been salesman.  The company Clay works for is one of many Western businesses vying  to sell products to the Saudi government.  The only reason Clay scores the Saudi opportunity is because of a friendship with someone in the Saudi royal family.  The Saudis plan to build a master city outside of Jeddah but development is moving at the pace of pre-global warming glaciers.  Clay has three technical people at the site who are housed in a large tent while other executives work in a nearby office building; the difference in treatment is never explained.  At night, Clay stays in a modern hotel  and each morning he oversleeps, which results in our meeting Yousef (Alexander Black), Clay’s taxi driver.  Yousef spent a year in Alabama and loves rock music.  He also believes that one day soon, his taxi will be rigged to a bomb because of his affair with a married woman.  The interplay between Yosef and Clay is funny and complements the film’s humorous undertone.  Clay becomes ill and is treated at a Saudi hospital by a female doctor (Sarita Choudhury).  Yosef comments more than once that there are only a handful of female doctors in Saudi Arabia and, even more unusual is the fact that Clay, a male, is being treated by a female doctor.  The film is not kind to Saudi society.  Tom Tykwer wrote the screenplay and directed the film, which is based on the novel by Dave Eggers.  The story seems to be heading in different directions at various points, however, as things gradually unfold, you begin to see the end point.  This is a story with a nice ending and part of its pleasure is the realization that you are being told a tale that is very different from the hints that are dropped throughout the first half of the film.   I enjoyed this movie.