DIRECTOR: Gabriele Marcino
Everyone has dreams and aspirations. What one does to pursue that dream and how much strength of character is needed is examined in The Pursuit Of Happyness. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a salesman trying to sell bone density scanners to no avail, he has a young son Christopher (Jaden Smith) and partner Linda (Thandie Newton). Linda is at wits end and pulling double shifts and holding family up while Chris can’t sell anything. It seems like a failed venture and she flees the scene leaving father and son to cope on their own. Chris applies for an internship at a stockbroker firm still needing cash from his side business venture while trying to parent his son.
The film uses devices like voice over narration to talk through key moments in this 1980’s San Francisco set film. If the film hasn’t grabbed you in the first twenty two minutes then it has lost you and you’ve already made up your mind if it is good, bad or just so-so. At least that’s what film theory and film schools teach. In the case of The Pursuit Of Happyness it was too slow to build in the first half hour. It laboured its points and could be edited by ten minutes.
Will Smith gives his “treat me serious actor” performance and he is convincing as Chris Gardner. You observe and watch his heartfelt performance as he tries to make ends meet, sell scanners, wait for free beds at hostels and try to sell plans. You sit back and watch Gardner make decisions and he acts without fault. The nemesis in the film is his wife Linda who hates the environment and the season of life that Gardner and son are in.
The film is watchable but there is a certain detachment from it. Will Smith doesn’t give an Oscar speech, he simply acts naturalistically as anyone in Gardner’s position would. Perhaps that’s what lets the film down is as viewers we want to be told how to feel, where here we observe and decide for ourselves on how to feel. The movie warms the heart and is sentimental. Not every film can be perfect but you can forgive this one because it executes heart well even though it repeats certain story threads on occasion.
There are small moments in the film where you just want to hug Gardner and son and say “It will be alright”. Gardner knows it will be alright because he has the self determination and perseverance to see his circumstance through. What struggle did he go through? How did his perseverance pay off is what is under the magnifying glass in The Pursuit Of Happyness.
Will Smith as Chris Gardner Sr
Jaden Smith as Christopher
Thandie Newton as Linda
Brian Howe as Jay Twistle