Friday, March 4, 2016

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

It is just one of those things we all face. According to movies, television and commercials especially – we all need to be happy all the time! I think the movie Inside Out lays out a pretty good case against being happy all the time, but I digress (and only in the third sentence, a new record)! So here we have a movie about a man leaving everything to find his happiness. Kind of reminds me of American Beauty, but with Simon Pegg instead of Kevin Spacey. Does that mean you need to be very, very afraid?

Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who lives a very ordered life with his girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike). He has a routine and it trundles along until one day he loses his temper with one of his patients. He comes to the realization that he doesn’t really know why people are happy and how they would define this happiness.

This inspires Hector to take to the road and see the wide world. His travels take him to bustling Shanghai, a lonely monastery in China, a war zone in Africa and finally into the suburbs of Los Angeles. Along the way he meets a bunch of unique folks who express to him what makes them happy. But can scenes with Jean Reno, Togo Igawa, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, and Toni Collette aid Hector and the Search for Happiness?

Good Points:
  • Simon Pegg provides an impressive and diverse performance
  • Lovely location shooting
  • Some clever visual techniques as Hector’s journal comes to life

Bad Points:
  • Hector and Clara aren’t the most involving of characters
  • Hits several of the road trip movie clichés pretty hard
  • Feels a little too clever for its own good


First things first, just because Simon Pegg is in this film doesn’t mean it is a comedy. This is a road trip drama with funny moments. The film is trying to be whimsical and yet provide some food for thought. It is worth watching the film to see Pegg run the gamut of emotions with his excellent performance. You also get some gorgeous location shooting in China, Africa and California. Some of the visuals are inventive as Hector’s journal comes to life on the screen. But it does end up crossing from nifty to a little too much for me. Almost like they felt they needed to spice up the road trip story a bit. Depending on how you feel about the message, you may enjoy the movie a bit more than I did.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 3
Total: 3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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  1. It's got a good cast and I like travel shows like The Amazing Race & Rick Steves' travel show. I might enjoy this one. Thanks.

    1. Yes, give it a try and tell me what you think of it. My wife and I had very different reactions to this movie. And then my sister loved it! So I'm very curious to hear opinions of it.

  2. A friend of mine is Professor Emerita at CSU East Bay and Docent at the Oakland Zoo. (I’ll catch up with her later this month at an event at the Central Park Zoo in NYC.) Her books have as a central point that we have to learn to accept being unhappy much of the time: it’s the way brain chemistry works, and one tries to subvert it at one’s peril: That said, it is possible to be more satisfied, which is not exactly the same as happy: one can be satisfied with being occasionally unhappy. (Freud said much the same thing in non-chemical terms.)

    Given his profession, maybe Hector could write off his globetrotting research as a business expense. I’ll bet that would make him happy.

    1. I've heard that before, that being content is a more achievable goal and one that can actually lead to happiness (because we can achieve it). But would this also be the same as settling for mediocrity? Should I call Salieri on this one. :)

      You know, they never mention if he does write it off as a business expense! Great idea.