The Pursuit of Happyness is a rags-to-riches story of exceptional perseverance starring Will and son Jaden Smith. After an erroneous investment into a large stock of bone density scanners, Chris Gardner’s (Smith Sr.) life starts spiraling down when he discovers that his investment is hard to sell and is barely making ends meet.
Chris’s life really hits the pits when wife Linda (Thandie Newton) leaves him and he is left with his son Chris (Smith Jr.) and no money. Chris’s inspiration for success comes in the form of a six-month internship at brokerage firm Dean Witter, where he is accepted but to his dismay finds out that it is unpaid and his chances of selection are one in twenty. During this period Chris is forced to live in shelters, toilets and dodgy motels as he struggles to keep himself and his son happy and inspired.
Will Smith produces what is probably his finest performance to date (considering his earlier repertoire of mainly action flicks) in this emotionally charged film. The on-screen chemistry between the movie version and real-life father and son is utterly believable as the two go through some tough moments in their lives. Newton is mediocre in her role as Smith’s uncompromising wife and is ejected out of the picture early on in the film. The rest of the supporting cast, namely Howe and his fellow brokers are passable in their performances. The young Smith also does well to hold his own in his scenes with father.
Directed by Gabriele Muccino in his first English speaking film, The Pursuit of Happyness is shot well enough to keep viewers interested as it progresses in a voice-over narrative format by the film’s star, throughout the different stages of his life. The film is at times tear-enduringly sad but is also balanced with an equal amount of uplifting scenes; this is where the movie slightly struggles to find itself. We feel sorry for the character, but at the same time know that he will persevere. Coined as ‘based on a true story’, viewers already expect a happy ending, so it is the ups-and-downs struggle of the story which drives the picture.
Overall, The Pursuit of Happyness is an inspirational film that conveys what the human spirit is capable of in harsh conditions, and that through perseverance any goal can be achieved. Leaving the cinema, you should want to go out and do something that you think is impossible, even if it means having to walk in the shoes of a homeless man.
The homeless people who worked as extras received a full day’s pay at minimum wage ($8.62/hr) and free catered meals. For some, it was the first money they had made in a while.