The Pursuit of Happyness: 3 & ½ Stars (out of 5)
The film begins with a disclaimer stating it is “based on a true story” – those are some dangerous words to be wary of theater goers! However, this film is an exception to that rule. Despite it’s disheartening and somber tone, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone diagnosed with depression, the film is well made and includes a terrific break-out performance by Mr. Smith. Not Will Smith, but his real life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith who steals the show.
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is the lone seller of a bone scanner in San Francisco. What sounded like a good investment has become an incresingly heavy weight around his neck. No one wants to purchase one. The rising debt and poor fortune puts even more stress on his troubled marriage. Finally his wife (Thandie Newton) leaves him to raise his young son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) alone.
A chance meeting on the streets of San Francisco plant the seeds of a new dream for Chris. He decides to compete for his a competitive internship at Dean Witter, to become a stock broker, and to change his fate, and the fate of his son.
Without any college training, but with a good head on his shoulders, Chris attempts to earn the internship as he tries to sell the remaining bone scanners for money. Situations aren’t helped when he and his son are evicted from their home and end up on the streets.
The film is about the struggle of one man trying to achieve a dream that no one but himself believes he can achieve. There’s definitely a capitalist slant here – money brings happiness, but it’s the dream itself which is the real story.
Smith works well in the role, but it’s his son who shines. There are several small roles that work well in the film including Brian Howe as the man who gives Chris his first big break because of a, little too cute, Hollywood moment involving a Rubix Cube. Dan Castellaneta (the voice behind Homer Simpson) also gives a nice turn as one of the uppity-ups at Dean Witter.
My only real problem with the film is how somber it plays. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life without the last 15 minutes. For a holiday film I think many might find this a real downer. But it’s an easy film to recommend with it’s fine collection of performances and good writing. Just don’t expect too much holiday cheer.