The Pursuit of Happyness (Columbia Pictures, PG-13)

film_happyness_smWhen was the last time you had to work really hard for something? If you're Chris Gardner (Will Smith), you remember immediately when you had to fight with all your heart for what you wanted.

 

 

 

 

film_happynessWhen was the last time you had to work really hard for something? The odds were stacked against you, and every time you made some headway life would come and smack you down. That never mattered though; because whatever that thing was you needed it like the air you breathe, so you always got back up and slogged through. If you're Chris Gardner (Will Smith), you remember immediately when you had to fight with all your heart for what you wanted.

The Pursuit of Happyness shows us Chris' struggle. He starts off as a salesman peddling bone density scanners to every hospital and doctor he can find in the Bay Area. Chris sunk his family's life savings into a large set of the machines, and when we first see him things are getting tough. Wife Linda (Thandie Newton) has spent the past four months working double shifts at a Chinatown laundry to put food on the table for their five-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). The family owes $600 in back taxes and three months of past-due rent. Linda, as you might imagine, is frustrated.

While heading to a sales call one day, Chris happens upon a stockbroker in a flashy car who gives him the idea to try for a competitive internship at Dean Witter, a prestigious brokerage firm. Finishing the internship could mean a full-time job for Chris that would lead the family to a better life.

It's a good thing this film is based on a true story. Otherwise, there is no way the audience could reasonably believe the absurd amount of bad things that threaten Chris' standing in his internship. Arrest, eviction, theft, and many other hardships attempt to get between the man and his goal.

Smith is incredibly likable (no secret there), and his charm is what really imbues these situations with truth. We can easily see that someone like him would be able to talk their way into, and out of, so many circumstances. Not many people, for instance, would be able to talk themselves into an internship after arriving at the interview sweaty, covered in paint and wearing baggy old jeans.

Smith's Chris is a man of intelligence, ingenuity, drive, and commitment. He's also proud, confident, and disarming, and I simply cannot imagine another actor pulling this combination off without making Chris seem like a bit of an ass. A terrible cliché is coming: Will Smith was born to play this role.

Smith-the-younger seems to have inherited a generous portion of his famous folks' (also known as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) talent. Christopher was wisely written and played as a normal kid, not overly smart, smug or precocious. As Christopher, Smith is cute, funny, scared, and confused. You can bet we'll be seeing more of him in the future. │Adrienne Jones

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