A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hector and the Search for Happiness -- which is based on the novel by Francois Lelord -- blends humor with a thought-provoking plot about a middle-aged man's identity crisis. Much of it is light and breezy, but a lot of it is ponderous, too, and may not appeal to younger viewers. Expect some swearing (mostly "s--t" and "f--k"), drinking (mostly social, though characters do get drunk at one point), partial nudity (a naked woman's backside is shown), kissing, and references to drug dealing. There's also an extended sequence in which a man is shown in a jail cell, clearly terrified, beaten (both physically and emotionally), and on the edge of his sanity.
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What's the story?
Hector (Simon Pegg) has a good life -- at least on paper. He's a therapist with a thriving practice. He lives with his hyper-efficient girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), who anticipates and takes care of his every single need in the very neat apartment they live in. But is he happy? How can he be when he's phoning it in at work and unsure of where his relationship is headed? And his life is choreographed to the minute; he never strays from the tried and true, and he won't take any risks. Determined to figure out how to become a happy person, Hector decides to travel the globe, first to China -- where he meets a very successful, though not terribly happy, business executive (Stellan Skarsgaard) -- and then to Africa, where he has a run-in with a drug lord (Jean Reno) and looks up a dear friend he hasn't seen for years. Finally he heads to Los Angeles, where an old flame from college (Toni Collette) awaits. What does it all mean for Hector and Clara?
Is it any good?
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (based on the novel by Francois Lelord) has a stodgy diligence that takes away from its cheery charm. Because even though many of its takeaways won't necessarily be enlightening (like the sixth item on Hector's list -- "Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness"), that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't true, or at least helpful. Such is the joy of the movie, which revels in its straightforward yet resonant plot. It's just fun to watch.
But that doesn't quite make up for the fact that, as noted, none of his epiphanies are really surprises. And Pegg's considerable energy is tamped down in a role that constrains his natural gifts. See Hector to be reminded of what you may already know but have forgotten -- life is what you make it -- and enjoy it on that level.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hector and the Search for Happiness' messages. What is it saying about life and happiness? Who do you think those messages are most intended to reach/impact?
Does the film portray Hector's identity crisis believably? What do you think of the lessons he learned over the course of the movie?
How does the movie depict drinking? Are there realistic consequences?
- In theaters: September 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2015
- Cast: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard
- Director: Peter Chelsom
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some brief nudity
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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