A Hologram for the King
is a movie starring
Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, and Sarita Choudhury.
A failed American sales rep looks to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his company's product to a wealthy monarch.
Yousef tells Alan that the only place he has visited in the United States is Alabama. Alan, surprised, asks him, "Why Alabama?" Yousef responds, "You mean because I was the only Arab for 1,000 miles? I had a scholarship for one year in Birmingham." Birmingham, Alabama, actually has one of the oldest and most established Arab American and Middle Eastern communities in the Deep South. For example, the Lebanese-American community in Birmingham was established in the late 1800s. In 1910, St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church (the Maronites being a division of Catholicism with roots in the countries that are now Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel) was established; as of April 2018, their Lebanese Food and Cultural Festival is one of the longest-running food festivals in Birmingham. See more »
Several times Alan is seen passing a gate guard by taxi. The guard just lets him pass, not caring very much, at times taking a foot-bath or even wittingly waving. This is highly inaccurate as in Saudi-Arabia, any visitor's car entering a guarded compound would be stopped, then both engine bay and trunk be searched for car bombs, regardless who's sitting inside. See more »
[mimicking The Talking Heads in his music video TV commercial]
You may find yourself living in your garden shack. And you may find yourself not at home in your home. And you may find yourself looking for your large automobile. And you may find yourself without a beautiful house. Without a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself "Well, how did I get here?"
[riding a roller coaster for the chorus]
Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.
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Not every comedy is for everyone (at least I think this was supposed to be a comedy). Last week I saw The Big Lebowski (1998) at the local movie theater. Packed. People in Lebowski t-shirts, people who raised hands to show they'd seen the movie five, ten, twenty times, people anticipating the laugh lines. Eighteen years from now, nothing like that will happen with this film from German director Tom Twyker. Tom Hanks is American businessman Alan Clay, whose marriage is over and whose career as a salesman is on the skids. In what appears to be a last chance at success, he's sent to Saudi Arabia to sell the king on a costly holographic teleconferencing system for a new city being built in the desert. He encounters bureaucratic delays, clandestine alcohol consumption, confounding cultural gaps, and unexpected romance. Where I messed up was in thinking, "Oh, Tom Hanks. He's always great." Someone so talented just wouldn't be in a mediocre film. Why would he? And, I thought, "Oh, Dave Eggers wrote the book it's based on. Got lots of praise for it too." For example, New York Times reviewer Pico Iyer called the book "an anguished investigation into how and where American self-confidence got lost and — in the central word another lonely expat uses for Alan— 'defeated.'" And the Boston Globe: "True genius." Someplace along the way, the promise of the book and Hanks got lost, and a more disjointed and implausible narrative is hard to imagine. When we're told that the crowds Hanks saw at a mosque were there because "that's where the executions are," it's hard to believe that a Saudi woman would take the very great risk of being alone with him, an American infidel. Hanks does get to drive a very sexy 2015 Audi R8, briefly. But even that isn't worth the ticket price.
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