The Pursuit of Happyness

2007-05-29 11:18

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) has no tertiary education but dreams of becoming a stockbroker and achieving the American Dream. But it’s a hard dream to achieve if you have to look after your five-old-son (Jaden Smith), have an unsupportive wife (Thandie Newton) who is seldom around, are homeless and have $21 dollars to your name. Despite these challenges, Gardner sets out to complete an unpaid internship at a brokerage, where only one student will be chosen for the job.


The Pursuit of Happyness is the kind of movie that takes the viewer on an emotional journey that is sure to bring out the sniffles in even the toughest viewer. But this is no “chick-flick”. Thanks to Smith’s acting and Gabriele Muccino’s direction, the movie is well executed and highly thought provoking. Most people will walk out of the cinema and ask: “Is my life really that bad?” Chances are it isn’t.

Will Smith has given his all to this role, as if he knows in the back of his mind that no more moving story about the African-American experience will cross his path for another few years. His heartfelt portrayal of Chris Gardner is in the same vein as his powerful (and still unsurpassed) portrayal of Mohamed Ali. But this movie goes beyond the colour line as it tells a human story that all races can relate to.

Chris’s son Christopher is played by Smith’s real life son Jaden, who shows promise as young actor. The chemistry between the two is, unsurprisingly, outstanding. For a boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Christopher is convincing as the underprivileged child of a struggling working-class man.

It must have been difficult for the two actors to perform some of the scenes. For example, when Chris is kicked out of one of many temporary homes, his son doesn’t understand why they can’t sleep there. Chris grabs his shoulders and screams at him as he shakes him. The fear and sadness on Christopher’s face is heartbreaking, and Smith remains in character without a glimpse of guilt for screaming at and frightening his own child.

Because The Pursuit of Happyness is such a raw story (perhaps as raw as Hollywood can be) about the human experience, you can’t help but get caught up in the emotional arc of the lead character. At every turn Chris meets a new hurdle and every time he makes it – often barely – viewers cheer him on in the hope that he will triumph, and realise his dream.

But the movie never sacrifices its plausibility, largely because it’s loosely based on the real life story of Chris Gardner who went from owning nothing to being a multi-millionaire. It’s often exhausting to watch Chris juggle his responsibilities. A good portion of the movie is taken up by shots of him running through the streets of San Francisco, rushing get to his internship class, or his son’s day-care, or the homeless shelter before they shut their doors. This frenetic action keeps the movie at visually interesting, and acts as a nice counter point to the quiet, emotional scenes.

The movie’s only weakness is Thandie Newton, who plays Smith’s wife. Newton has proved herself as an accomplished actress, but in this movie she falls short. Her accent is not convincing, nor is her portrayal of an impoverished wife working double shifts.

As for the spelling mistake in Happyness, it’s not a typo. The real Chris Gardner saw this spelling on a sign when he was homeless and decided to use it as the title of his book. But it’s also works in summarising the message of the movie about pursuing what best speaks to you, even if it looks strange to other people. As Smith says in one scene: “You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you that you can't do it. You want something? Go get it. Period.”

- Nomfundo H Mbaba+Tshabalala
Will Smith's new movie is a heat-warming celebration of a father's love for his son. It may not be a "chick flick", but it's guaranteed to give you the sniffles.

Flea 2007/02/16 3:48 PM
Soppy! I thought it was overly sentimental and a bit lame
Christine 2007/02/18 12:26 PM
pursuit of happiness sincere
Mo 2007/02/19 9:09 AM
Sincere And the shocking reality of slipping into homelessness!
boogieman 2007/02/22 11:46 AM
daddy+baby smith i felt the movie dragged for way too long. yes there were some moments but overall i dont see the big boohaa over this one. nominated for grammy/oscar - why? Acting was average - from both smiths...
portia 2007/02/22 1:17 PM
pursuit of happiness this story its touching
portia 2007/02/22 1:17 PM
pursuit of happiness this story its touching
mpakiseng 2007/03/13 9:22 AM
pursuit of happyness touchy,very touchy,that is talking about parental love,something other people take forgranted,one thing you sure to understand if you have your own child,looking in those innocent eyes and explain something you cant understand yourself.
mandi,CT 2007/03/14 2:49 PM
persuit of happiness Very touching film,i just wish most MEN could watch the movie and see the dedication and Love that man gives his Son despite of everything.
Sandra Shongwe 2007/04/10 8:49 AM
True Humility I've learned that true humilty is understanding that another persons journey is as difficult as your own.
Vaughan 2007/04/15 11:08 AM
In Pursuit of Happiness Shows how cruel life can be and portrays what true perseverance is. It gave me new meaning to the term "hard work". It also shows how you can turn your life around with the right choices in your life. it's a movie that makes you think.....
claudine 2007/04/20 12:34 PM
pursuit of happyness All movies based on a true story ain't always that good, but this one has out-done itself. You take the negative and turn it into something positive and use it to your advantage no-matter how bad things go. It show's us to value and appreciate the finer things in life. When you think that you've got it bad, something like this makes you realise that you don't actually.No-matter your situation, always shoot for the monn coz even if you miss,you are bound to land amongst the stars. God Bless and thanx for this great movie.
Emelia 2007/08/23 12:37 PM
Persuit of Happyness I cried from the beginning till the end. It's very sad and on the other hand i learned that does'nt matter how tough he did'nt give up. He had to protect his dream even from his selfish wife.
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