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Running Time:
1 hr. 30 min.

Rating: R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.

Rating Explanation:
for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
The film amiably ambles through a narrative desert, saved by an oasis of a performance from the ever-dependable Tom Hanks.

Additional Info:
Tom Hanks ... Alan
Alexander Black ... Yousef
Sarita Choudhury ... Zahra
Sidse Babett Knudsen ... Hanne
Tracey Fairaway ... Kit
Jane Perry ... Ruby
Tom Skerritt ... Ron
Michael Baral ... Young Ron
Lewis Rainer ... Young Alan
Xara Eich ... Young Kit
David Menkin ... Brad
Christy Meyer ... Cayley
Megan Maczko ... Rachel
Ben Whishaw ... Dave

A Hologram for the King
Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is an aging salesman for a high-tech Boston company who’s assigned to go to Jedda, Saudi Arabia, and clinch a deal to provide a holographic communications system for a “city of the future” that’s slowly—very slowly—emerging in the desert. Clay’s life, as we learn in a dreamlike prologue set to the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” has imploded. Financially he’s on his last legs, having lost his house; he can’t even cover college tuition for his understanding daughter (Tracey Fairaway). His wife (Jane Perry) has left him and is unapologetic in her criticism. And he’s haunted by his role in turning an iconic American company (Schwinn) over to a conglomerate and sending many of its jobs abroad—a fact that his father (Tom Skerritt) never tires of upbraiding him with.

The Jedda assignment is something of a last professional chance. Unfortunately, the circumstances prove unpropitious. Clay and his team are housed not in the sleek new office building that’s risen in the middle of nowhere, but in a huge tent a good walk from it—a place with no air conditioning and irregular wi-fi service, which threatens the company’s whole demonstration. When Clay goes to a nearby building for help, he just gets a runaround until he violates instructions and winds up on an upper floor, where he meets an agreeable Danish contractor (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who commiserates, presents him with a bottle of whiskey though alcohol is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, and ultimately will make a pass at him.

And that’s only the start of Clay’s problems. The king’s expected visit for the company’s presentation is constantly being delayed. The monarch’s smooth underlings are friendly but ultimately don’t deliver on their promises. Alan repeatedly oversleeps, leading him to miss the bus out to the so-called Metropolis of Industry and Trade and to hire a driver named Yousef (Alexander Black), a semi-westernized fellow with a curious sense of humor with whom Alan bonds. And then there’s the enormous cyst growing on Clay’s back, which he attempts to deal with himself—an unwise decision that lands him in the care of Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), a doctor who’s struggling against the Saudi strictures against female independence. Naturally he’ll be attracted to her, and she to him, despite all the cultural obstacles.

A Hologram for the King has a rambling, episodic quality that director Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") probably intended to accentuate the chasm the protagonist has to face in dealing with so alien a locale. If so, he’s succeeded only too well; the viewer is likely to feel as much at sea as Clay is, and just about as frustrated, watching him jump through what seems an endless series of random hoops.

But, overall, the film is stiff, sometimes didactic and sometimes kind of goofy while never melding the jarringly different tones into a cohesive whole. The happy ending, moreover, feels more predetermined than earned; even the fine performance by Tom Hanks can’t make it entirely credible. 

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