Movie Review: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (2006)
I’m a sucker for the inspirational ‘based on a true story’ type of movies. Usually, even the most horribly made films of those kinds will appeal to me. However, there are some genuinely amazing inspirational films that are tragically awesome to watch… like THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS.
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
About a down on his luck father, trying to provide for this son, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is a real life story about how a guy with literally nothing… goes buck, puts in such hard work and dedication and finally accomplishes his dream. Which, by the way, isn’t to be rich or be a sports star or famous… his dream is just to be happy… an admirable dream if there has ever been any.
Will Smith is Chris Gardner, who got screwed with a bad investment in his younger days, and now has a young son and the burden of the whole world on his shoulders. His marriage is strained with his wife and him working round the clock, not to mention the fact that his wife blames him for the predicament they’re in. It’s a bitter tale, and it’s surprising how this guy is able to keep it together emotionally.
A completely fluke incident clues Chris in on the fact that Stockbrokers are massively rich, don’t need an education to be one… but just need to be good with people and numbers, both of which Chris can do. However, being an unpaid intern for 6 months with no guarantee of a job at the end, while trying to make enough money each day to be able to feed his son, with no place to sleep at night and a wife who leaves… makes his situation something that I can honestly say I would never have the courage or determination to go through. But Chris does… and he does.
You’ll notice so far in the review that I’ve referred to Will Smith’s character by his 1st name, and not as ‘the character’ or anything of the sort. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is written so damn brilliantly, that around halfway through the film, you feel like you personally know the characters involved. As the audience, we become invested in Chris’ story right away. Will Smith’s brilliant performance causes us to care for him, his failures crush us as well as him, and the utter glee he feels during his triumphs is reflected in our own smiles experiencing it. It’s genius on so many levels.
One of the strengths of THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is to have cast real life father-son duo of Will Smith and his own son Jaden Smith, as on screen father and son as well. The kid is super cute and their scenes have the most impact through out the film, as we see a father struggling to provide for his son, while struggling even harder to not let it affect the kid. It’s sweet, horrible and tragic all at the same time.
My favorite scene has to be the brief bit at the basketball court, where Chris very casually tells his son to not waste time with Basketball, as he was never a good player himself, so no point of his son pursuing dreams of ‘going pro’. He however, quickly realizes and corrects himself by telling his young son to never take heed of anyone telling him he can’t do something… including his own father. It was an intensely gratifying scene and amazing life lesson to pass on to one’s kids.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is aware that it’s a type of biographical, inspirational story, as the brief narration throughout by Will Smith talks about this being the story of a ‘part of’ his life. And it further enhances the story when he points out that his determination isn’t due to ambition, money or any other superficial goal… but rather the ‘pursuit of happiness’, as outlined in the America’s Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson.
Despite powerhouse performances in a variety of films, this HAS to be Will Smith’s best performance to date! Smith goes against the grain of his typical cute, charming and hot on screen personas, and plays an unkempt, typical middle class man with shades of grey and a scruffy moustache, whom life has beat down repeatedly. Even his mannerisms and demeanor in this film aren’t polished or well thought out, he’s not the perfect dad… and he’s aware of it. It’s great and heart breaking to watch.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is a sweet and tragic movie that takes the audience through the most horrible of circumstances that a man and his son could ever go through. It’s an emotional tearjerker for so many reasons, none of which are at all obvious or intentionally so. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is a gut wrenching true story about how the simple desire to ‘be happy’, can cause someone to overcome the worst of times… and triumph.