The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Reviewed on 2007 January 22
Will Smith really outdid himself in this movie. It’s based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner, a man who struggled through financial hell for a better life, and while I’ve not read Gardner’s book yet and don’t know how true-to-life the movie is, it was still outstanding.
Chris and Linda (Thandie Newton) are struggling to make ends meet. They live in a small apartment in San Francisco with their son Chris Jr. (played by Smith’s adorable real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). Gardner invested the family’s savings into bone density scanners to try to sell, and between the precarious venture, daycare for their son, and just plain everyday life, they’re barely making it. Chris is tired of struggling and wants to give his family more. He feels he owes it to them, and himself … he’s personable and he’s good with numbers. One day while trying to sell and getting lots of rejection, he sees a man purring a Ferrari to a stop in front of Dean Witter. The man tells Chris he’s a stockbroker, and Chris decides to try for the brass ring himself and become an intern.
Neither fate nor Linda seem on board with this plan, and every obstacle seems to attach itself to Chris like a magnet. (The least of the setbacks is crazy people swooping in like seagulls at low tide to steal his scanners.) For 117 minutes we’re there with him, feeling every setback and wondering how he’ll make it. I think the worst thing is the lack of support from the exhausted Linda. Nothing stops Chris from trying to succeed.
I know there may be some deviations from the real-life story of Gardner, but the movie is still powerful. The “dinosaurs and cave” scene is especially heart-wrenching. Gabriele Muccino did a wonderful job of directing the story without getting saccharine. The soundtrack fit nicely, with some great songs by Stevie Wonder. And yes, there’s a point to the misspelling of the title.
Three chocolate morsels. Bring Kleenex®.