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“A Hologram for the King”, based on Dave Eggers 2012 novel, caught me by surprise as very little advertising went into supporting the picture prior to its release this past weekend. German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, who directed Tom Hanks in 2012’s “Cloud Atlas”, is back with Hanks directing a romance comedy about an IT salesmen, who after being assigned a complex project in Saudi Arabia, falls in love with a local physician.   

It’s been a busy last couple of years for Hanks whose films he’s headlined, “Captain Phillips” and “Bridge of Spies” were both nominated for Academy Awards; yet in 2014 and seemingly in the midst of shooting two of the most recognizable pictures of his career he managed to squeeze an absolute gem of an independent book-to-movie adaptation.  Hanks stars as Alan Clay, a former Schwinn bicycle dealer turned software salesman who’s on the backend of his long career at a state of the art high-tech IT Company.  “A Hologram for the King” gets its name from a 3D virtual-reality, data conference software Clay is responsible for selling to the Saudi government.  Clay travels abroad only to find the major buyers, including the King himself, absent and is told to plan for the long-haul accordingly as it could take upwards of 18 months for him to arrive.  Clay, recently divorced, passes the time growing accustomed to the traditions and life in the Middle East.  Being a Hanks’ film this picture provides plenty of moments of dry humor including the relationship Clay builds with his chauffeur who has to triple check for car bombs before the two get into his 1970’s sedan (by the way most older cars in the United States eventually end up in the Middle East) and the dry runs where handle of liquor is smuggled into Clay’s hotel when it’s forbidden and illegal to drink alcohol within the Saudi Kingdom. 

The film also serves to break down many of the common stereotypes outsiders have of those living in the Middle East. For example women and their ability to work and obtain jobs outside the confines of their own home. Midway through the film Hank’s character notices a tumor on his back and sees a physician named Zahra in order to get it removed. When it’s revealed that she’s also divorced it’s the start of a blossoming relationship between the two.

“A Hologram for the King” has a real-life, down to earth feel about it that reminds me of the connection I had with 2009’s “Up in the Air”. For one it’s narrative is so incredibly simple yet pinpoint specific and the story arises out of a situation that seems plausible of happing in anyone’s life given the right timing and opportunity.  In the present day, with so much travel and technology abroad, the script is kept up to date with current events and it’s as if audiences are watching a genuine case study in front of them; that’s what provides the real connection and makes for the exciting drama.

This spring you’re in for a real treat with “A Hologram for the King” –a once in while romance comedy with a story that hooks audiences and delivers.

I highly recommend checking out “A Hologram for the King” and give it 3 out of 4 Stars.