The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Will Smith is a such a likable actor and audiences have become so accustomed to seeing him portray cocky winners, that experience the continual hardships that await him in The Pursuit of Happyness is emotionally exhausting. Christopher Gardner is a medical supply salesman in San Francisco during the early 1980s. Saddled with outdated equipment and mounting bills, Chris lives sale-to-sale depending on his hard work ethic to make ends meet. His wife decides that she has had enough and packs her meager belongings, though it is never clearly stated, it seems that an addiction or mental instability may have been a deeper issue than finances. However this leaves Chris the sole provider for himself and his six-year-old son, who attends daycare in Chinatown and seems frighteningly adjusted for the trauma he endures.

Looking to better his life for himself and his son, Chris enter into a competitive internship at Dean Witter to become a stockbroker. During this unpaid period of employment Gardner is forced to confront the reality of homelessness, the worst of which is a night spent cradling his young son in a subway bathroom. If I have made The Pursuit of Happyness sound relentlessly depressing that’s because it is.

The revelation here isn’t Will Smith, who gives an Oscar nominated performance, but we saw glimpses of that depth and range in Ali. It is the younger Smith, Jaden that is the discovery here. A true screen actor even at a precocious age, Jaden matches his father beat for beat. The bond on-screen is so effective that it brings a ray of hopefulness to an otherwise numbing story.

Those familiar with the real-life outcome of Chris Gardner’s life, will be waiting for that glorious moment to arrive, long before it actually does. Hence is the struggle when reviewing a film as involving (and draining) as The Pursuit of Happyness. Do I tell you how brilliant the acting is? Or do I confess that watching Will Smith get the piss kicked out of him by life’s trials left me feeling wrung-out and down?

Director: Gabriele Muccino
Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton

2 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Review

  • March 22, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I never saw this. Still don’t plan on seeing it either. Don’t know why. Either way, good review. Maybe I’ll eventually catch it.

    • March 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Nick, do your self a favor and watch this before you ever contemplate watching 7 pounds. At least Pursuit has an uplifting ending after two hours of hardships. 7 pounds is one of the most constantly depressing films I’ve ever witnessed.


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