The Pursuit of Happyness
- Gabriele Muccino
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is in the midst of a rocky marriage with Linda (Thandie Newton) as their economic situation in the early 80’s gets worse by the minute. The only thing that seems to keep them together is their son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) And then, in the midst of harsh circumstances, Chris decides to accept an internship to compete for a post in a big stock-broker company.
The movie was directed by Gabriele Muccino from a screenplay by Steve Conrad, which is based on the true story of Chris Gardner (who retains an associate producer credit). It is indeed an interesting account to tell, one complete with a big heart and a big message. There’s nothing wrong with that, although one gets the sense that the movie never soars. It is suffering plus suffering plus suffering with no momentum whatsoever, and just when a big payoff was needed Muccino decides to cut on sentimentality and stop the movie short. I am all for lack of manipulation, but sometimes a story screams for it. This was it.
I was honestly entertained all the way despite the permeating gloominess. The charismatic actors keep things interesting and we really want to see them succeed. The bond that is formed between father and son is cute and all, but one gets the sense that it could’ve been taken a step forward. Christopher’s role is actually under-written, as is his mother Linda’s. Chris himself is given the saint treatment, even though his wife’s complaints are quite valid and still she’s made to look like the villain from the beginning. Yes, the movie does not escape its Hollywood roots even though it tries hard to boost an arty sensibility. Take Chris’s continuous encounters with the people who stole scanners from him; they do nothing for the story. But at least we don’t get the clichéd villain that always comes with this kind of tale...
There’s a voice-over narration throughout the flick that is serious at times, tongue-in-cheek at others. I would have to see the movie without it to really say if it would’ve been a better idea to abstain from it, but right now my impression is mixed.
It does seem like I’m giving the movie a hard time, but it’s really not bad at all. I actually admired it for what it is and left the theater with a good, if unspectacular, impression.
Will Smith received his second Oscar nomination for his role as Chris. I can’t say if he deserved it or not, but I do have to admit that he does a really good job. He’s believable all the way and leaves his off-screen persona entirely out of the movie. I was with him at every step. His real-life son is also good as his on-screen son. You can sense that he’s a natural, and there’s a freshness to him that is welcomed. On the other hand, Thandie Newton’s over-the-top portrayal takes you completely out of the movie. That voice! Every other supporting performance is good.
One last thing: I loved the meaning of the title but especially where its specific spelling comes from.
“He must have had on really nice pants.”
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Other reviews of The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): Groucho