Culture clash dramedy “A Hologram For The King” may have taken a few of Tom Hanks’ loyal fans by surprise, or if not quite surprise then possibly left them a trifle bemused. A detached, contemplative and quirkily surreal journey through one man’s three-quarter life crisis, it provides a great platform for Hanks’ natural charisma and provides an intriguing view of life in the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia.
Alan Clay (Hanks), a newly divorced, down on his luck salesman takes a job pitching for the IT infrastructure contract for a prestigious new development called the King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade. As he waits for his audience with the King, he starts to reflect on his life and his future.
There’s a whimsical and hazy approach to the story, which draws us in to Alan’s current world view while it unpacks some of the myths and preconceptions of what life is like in the KSA. Hanks’ everyman routine works perfectly, especially when his would-be energetically optimistic sales schtick comes up against a culture driven by different priorities and approaches. He’s joined on his journey of self-rediscovery by his driver Yousef, played with scene-stealing comic charm by American actor Alexander Black and a beguiling doctor played with grace and sensuality by Sarita Choudhury. It’s with the latter the story takes an unexpectedly romantic turn as Alan finds in her a kindred spirit and the possibility of hope.
It’s an amiable story which unhurriedly allows us to explore its characters against the rich geographical and cultural backdrop of the Middle East with an endearing penchant for fantasy sequences which are vaguely reminiscent of “The World According To Garp”. If nothing else, Tom Tykwer’s bright and playful adaptation of Dave Eggars’ novel has convinced me that I want a full-length version of Tom Hanks performing Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’.