The Pursuit Of Happyness

 
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Written by:Steve Conrad
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta
Released: January 11, 2007
Grade: B+

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a man who can’t catch a break.  He’s struggling to make ends meet as a salesman and can’t find enough time to spend with his wife (Thandie Newton) and young son, Christopher (Jaden Smith).  That sentence greatly simplifies the many obstacles that are thrown in front of him.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse for Chris, a new challenge arises.

If he continued on his downward spiral, then I doubt Chris’s story would have made for a marketable motion picture.  We want to see people overcoming adversity and in that regard, The Pursuit of Happyness delivers.

After getting the idea from a stranger in the street, Chris wants to become a stockbroker.  He thinks it will give him the respect and the financial security that will make him “happy”.  The firm of Dean Witter accepts 20 interns every year for its six month training program.  At the end, just one is selected for full time employment.  He may lack a graduate degree but it’s not going to stop Chris from trying.  He must have that job.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Will Smith in the past but I think his great performance is critical to this film.  He acts like a regular guy and I had much compassion for him and his situation.  If I didn’t like him, then I wouldn’t have cared less.  This may sound a little mushy but it does make you appreciate the things you take for granted.

Smith’s passionate portrayal helped me overlook some of the film’s misgivings.  It may be based on a true story but there were elements I found hard to believe.  Given his lack of money, why didn’t he first look for a regular job (e.g. cleaner, pizza delivery guy)?  Not once did I see him at a job agency.  His wife leaves him early in the film and doesn’t return.  What happened to her?  Didn’t she care for her son?  Will wins new clients as part of his internship with apparent ease.  What was his secret and how did he do it working less than the standard number of hours?

The incorrectly spelt title and the casting of Will Smith may have you thinking this is a light-hearted movie going experience.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s one of the darker, more depressing dramas I’ve seen of late.  It deserves to be recommended but just make sure you know what you’re in for.