Pursuit of Happyness (with an “I not “Y” right?) is a moving and inspiring drama based on the true story of Chris Gardner’s memoir from which the title of the movie is derived. The setting is 1981 San Francisco and we find ourselves watching the lives of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), Linda (Thandie Newton) and Christopher (Jaden Smith) as it starts to unfold. Chris has taken his life savings to invest in “bone density scanners” with the intention of striking it rich and reaping the rewards. It doesn’t happen and over a period of time financial problems have been tearing the relationship of Chris and Linda apart at its seams. The moment that changes Chris life is when while walking down the street, he meets a man driving an exotic sports car. As he gets out Chris asks, “What do you do? And how do you do it?” The man simply states, “I’m a stockbroker.” Although he has no higher education and came to the interview dressed as a “garbageman” he convinces the interview board to give him an opportunity. As one door opens another closes as Linda decides to walk out on Chris but wants her son to come with her to New York. He refuses and keeps Christopher as he starts out on his competitive internship at Dean Witter while still trying to unload the last of his “bone density scanners”. He finds himself going from bad to terrible to worst while keeping his son. The scene that says it all is the bathroom scene at the train terminal. This is when while sleeping on the bathroom floor on toilet paper with Chris he hears someone knocking on the door. You see him put his foot on the locked door. He holds his son tight and cries realizing he’s at his lowest point ever.
The acting of Will Smith was superb and he was surprisingly believable portraying an older man. He showed a maturity I have never seen or personally missed from watching his other films. The newcomer Jaden Smith who some might have said only got the role due to nepotism (like me!) was a class act and will be no doubt following in the footsteps of his father. He was genuine and went through the arc of emotions like a professional. The nice pretty girl, Thandie Newton, was rough looking and harsh but brought what was exactly needed for her role. The interesting inclusion of the “Rubik’s Cube” was a nice wrinkle. The scene with Chris Gardner and Jay Twistle in the cab with the challenge of “You can’t solve it, no one can” and Chris defiantly stating that he can and then doing it was extraordinary to watch.
The journey Chris Gardner takes is a painful one but filled with hope, determination and at times humor. Overall I was so involved in the true life journey of Chris Gardener and the many experiences that I felt like I actually know him. Of course I don’t but isn’t that the experience of a great movie? It is for us to watch the struggles of the central figure, relate to them and cheer them on to the end right? I “strongly” recommend to anyone who has not seen this movie to go out and watch it and even more so to purchase it. In the words of Chris Gardener to his son Chris, “Go get it, period.”