Reviews

Movie reviews: "Adorkable" Emilia Clarke steals the scenes in Me Before You

Alexander Black and Tom Hanks (above) Alexander Black and Tom Hanks (above) in A Hologram For The King and Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in Me Before You.A Hologram For The King and Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin (below) in Me Before You.
Alexander Black and Tom Hanks (above) in A Hologram For The King and Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in Me Before You.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
Alexander Black and Tom Hanks in A Hologram For The King and Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin (above) in Me Before You.
Alexander Black and Tom Hanks in A Hologram For The King and Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin (above) in Me Before You.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

A Hologram For The King is about a salesman in the Middle East who is broke and weighed down by cares

You have probably read about the debauchery that is expatriate life in the Middle East, where well-behaved foreign professionals transform into party machines once hidden from the eyes of locals.

A Hologram For The King (M18, 98 minutes, opens tomorrow, 2.5/5 stars) shows this, without judgment. That thread of social observation is one of the best things here.

"We don't have unions. We have Filipinos," says one Saudi.  

It is too bad, then, that this kind of tart analysis is skimmed over in favour of developing characters that are never as interesting as their backgrounds would suggest.

Take Alan Clay (Tom Hanks), for example. He is an American salesman, hawking holographic gear to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Clay is broke and weighed down by cares. He is also plagued by guilt because in a previous career, he made dozens of Americans jobless after sending the manufacturing of the venerated Schwinn bicycle to China.

Adding to his woes, his adventure founders when the Saudi royalty he is sent to meet gives him the runaround. Meanwhile, a fleshy lump grows on his back.

German director Tom Tykwer adapts Dave Eggers' 2012 novel of the same name in this drama-comedy about weathering a middle-age crisis in a strange land.

Tykwer sees culture as destiny. In the misbegotten fantasy Cloud Atlas (2012) and the science-fiction television series Sense8 (2015), in almost every character, culture and free will are locked in battle.

Clay is surrounded by Saudis who go against the grain of their upbringing, from driver Yousef (Alexander Black), a rock music fan; to his doctor, Zhara (Sarita Choudhury), a woman chafing under the Kingdom's restrictions on women.

They might be atypical, but that is not enough to make them interesting. Hanks is a fine and extremely likeable actor and there are interesting points made about the global economy, only for it to be undone by a soggy Madam Butterfly tryst thread.

Me Before You(PG13, 110 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3/5 stars) puts the man-woman relationship front and centre. Like Hologram, this romance-drama features a brooding man.

Louisa (Emilia Clarke) is a happy-go-lucky person who takes a job assisting Will (Sam Claflin), a quadriplegic and son of the local landowner.

Written by Jojo Moyes, based on her 2012 bestseller, the story trundles along the usual genre path - sometimes unfairly titled "chick lit".  

However, director Thea Sharrock, making her feature debut, keeps things interesting even as events unfold with a certain inevitability.

This is a prince-meets-pauper fairy tale with a very real and serious topic at the core, used as the device that sets Will and Louisa apart.

But Moyes and Sharrock do not use it, or Will's quadriplegia, in a trivial way.  

Clarke's Louisa, all perkiness and eccentric fashion sense, is classic adorable-dorky, or "adorkable".

The actress takes the cliche and makes it fresh, but in the process, Claflin's moody Will is overpowered by her exuberance. 

Clarke is the Mother Of Dragons on television's Game Of Thrones.

Here, she is also the master of stealing the scene.

DITCHING HER DRAGONS TO GOOF AROUND

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Mid-life crisis in a strange land'. Print Edition | Subscribe