Hanks in 'A Hologram for the King' is comfortably bland viewing
A Hologram for the King; 90min; Rated R
Regarding the just-released “A Hologram for the King,” the basic question is, would you like to spend an easy 90 minutes hanging out with Tom Hanks?
Actually, it’s hard to say “no.” No one plays Tom Hanks better than Tom Hanks, especially when he’s doing his signature Everyman. He slips into this role, which is undemanding but still interesting, even intriguing.
Regarding “Hologram” (based on the Dave Eggers novel), Hanks portrays aging corporate executive Adam Clay, sent, somewhat reluctantly, by his company to Saudi Arabia where he is slated to pitch to the reigning monarch, King Abdullah, a new form of teleconferencing using holograms.
His I.T. team is already on site, and the agenda is already set, appointments made. All Adam has to do is get with the appropriate people to set up a demonstration of the technology.
What Adam is not prepared for is the fact that while his world in the states operates in a predictable way, in Jeddah, location of his planned demo, well, it’s not Kansas (or New England, the location of his company, Reliant). Nothing is as it seems. He is a fish out of Western water and completely unprepared to comprehend what is missing. He’s viewing his situation through a distorted lens. The king is not available. Adam’s scheduled meetings are ignored. And so he finds himself waiting while days slip by.
And so the film purposely meanders, and there is an overlay of randomness to the plot (if there really is a plot). Adam finds a local driver, Yousef (Alexander Black), to take him to the king’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade Center, a sparkling collection of under-construction skyscrapers. Meanwhile, his team is holde up in a massive tent, absent air conditioning and wi-fi. Essentially, as far as his mission is concerned, no one is home.
And so the story is filled in with seemingly unconnected events. To complicate his life, Adam has a cist on his back and seeks a medical evaluation and meets a female Saudi doctor, Zahara Hakem (Sarita Choudhury). They have immediate chemistry. She suggests he return for another appointment for the results of a biopsy. This vignette has nothing to do with the king or a hologram.
Adam has rapport with Yousef. They share conversation, loud rock and roll, and even a hunting trip. Again, this side trip is not related to the king. In the interim, Adam is waiting, decidedly optimistic, ever hopeful that if he and his team wait, the designated techie pitch will eventually happen.
Meanwhile, he and the doctor become better acquainted, go swimming, discuss their families (both are recently divorced and both have children), while working ever so nicely on their chemistry.
Meanwhile, Adam waits, arriving at the Center of Trade daily, ever hopeful someone who can make a decision will appear.
And so it goes. But Hanks is good company. And though the story seems bland, it’s a comfortable bland, like a pair of old shoes, or a character study-lite of a man who defines “mid-life crisis,” yet manages to avoid melodrama whenever possible. As does “A Hologram for the King.”