One of my favorite unsung movies is Peter Chelsom’s “Funny Bones,” a portrait of comic performers at the British seaside resort Blackpool. It’s a very specific, happy/sad movie with terrific performances from Oliver Platt, Jerry Lewis and especially Lee Evans, who channels Buster Keaton. It didn’t make much of a splash back in 1995, but it’s one of Chelsom’s own favorites, and he makes a welcome return to that kind of witty British moviemaking with “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” starring two of my other faves, Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike.
Based on a bestselling memoir by a real-life French psychiatrist, the anglicized movie follows stick-in-the-mud shrink Hector (Pegg) on a quest around the world for happiness. He leaves behind his fiance (Pike) to connect with strangers, from a wealthy businessman (Stellan Skarsgard) who shows him around Shanghai and a monk in Tibet to a dangerous gangster in Africa (Jean Reno). He also reconnects with his first love in Los Angeles (Toni Collette). The movie is a far smaller-budgeted version of Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” in that through his adventures our hapless ordinary fellow becomes a far more confident and romantic hero. But does he find happiness?
There’s a typically complex financial backstory to the making of this indie crowdpleaser that involved Chelsom going hat in hand to old friend Robbie Brenner at Relativity Media, which is releasing the movie. (She also supported “Dallas Buyers’ Club” and “Out of the Furnace” last year.) I suspect that this film may be a commercially accessible ‘tweener that is neither upscale arthouse nor hipster cool. Reviewers have not been kind so far–it opens this week in the UK and other countries around the world– but the film may drum up more support at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival before its September 19th opening in North America.
Check out the utterly charming Pegg and Chelsom below.