Friday, February 23, 2007
Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness
By Herman Lugaro
Movie's Grade: A-
Throughout most of Will Smith’s career the characters he has portrayed have been lighthearted and comical. In The Pursuit of Happyness Smith shows his real acting skills by truly expressing one man’s struggle to survive.
The movie title is taken from a phrase in the declaration of independence, and it is misspelled on purpose. The main theme of this film is that out of all of the rights given to a U.S. citizen, the pursuit of happiness is the hardest to attain.
The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), who made the unbelievable jump from homelessness to prosperity by gaining an internship at Dean Witter. There, with his hard work and perseverance he wins the job as a stockbroker.
Gardner’s misfortunes begin with his life in San Francisco where he invests his entire savings on a portable, but unpopular machine called a bone-density scanner, which he then tries selling to doctors. Alas, Gardner has no luck selling these machines, and moves deeply into debt owing everyone from the landlord to the I.R.S. His family’s only source of stable income comes from his wife (Thandie Newton) who is working two jobs. As finances get worse, Gardner’s wife get so fed up with the situation that she decides to leave, but Chris doesn’t allow her to take their 5-year-old son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith).
As the movie goes on, things do not get any better for Gardner. He can’t afford to pay the rent and becomes homeless. This forces him and his son to spend the night sleeping on a BART train. When Gardner is turned away from a homeless shelter he and his son sleep in a subway station restroom. In the restroom, as Gardener sits on the floor hugging his sleeping son, we witness Smith deliver an emotional display that this is the lowest point in Gardner’s life.
Through the course of the film, the bone-density scanner gets stolen twice: first by a guitar playing hippie woman, and then by a mentally disturbed homeless man. In both instances there’s a chase scene where Gardner notices them and stops what he is doing to chase them through the streets of San Francisco. Director Gabriele Muccino overdoes this scenario in trying to shed some comedic glimmer on Gardner’s woes.
All in all, I like Smith’s portrayal of Gardner, which was straightforward and solid. His performance as a loving father comes across as natural, it demonstrates the father-son bond as being the foundation for Gardner’s eventual success.
If you decide to watch this enjoyable film, pay close attention in the final moments where a man wearing a suit walks across the screen. That’s the real Chris Gardner after reaching happiness.