The Pursuit of Happyness

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The Pursuit of Happyness
Review (7.5/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

"The Pursuit of Happyness" stars Will Smith in the "inspired by a true story" tale of Chris Gardner, a down-on-his-luck salesman in the early 1980s who rose from the lowly position he'd found himself in to vying for a job at one of America's premiere stock brokerage firms. The movie starts by introducing us to Chris, his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) and his son, played by Smith's real-life son Jaden. The family lives in a small apartment in San Francisco and they struggle with day-to-day problems like affording rent and childcare for their son. See, Chris isn't a total failure. He's actually a pretty smart guy. But he made the fatal decision of investing his family's life savings in a job selling portable x-ray technology. When sales aren't exactly what he'd hoped they'd be, the family falls on hard times. And his wife isn't one to let him forget about it.

One day, while walking down the street, Chris comes across a guy in a nice suit and a fancy car. Curious, he approaches the man and asks him how he can afford such riches. He's directed towards the prestigious Dean Witter stock brokerage firm. As it turns out, the firm is about to conduct interviews for an internship that could lead to a job for one lucky candidate. When Chris decides to give it a shot, it causes a further rift between him and his wife. So, she leaves him and moves to NYC. Alone with his son, Chris suffers a number of hardships including being evicted from his apartment, being jailed for failure to pay parking tickets and being forced to live on the streets in homeless shelters and dirty public transit washrooms. However, he still keeps plugging away at his internship for that one chance to turn it all around.

Now, if one thing bothered me about this movie, it'd be that it was "inspired" by a true story. While researching the story for this review, I learned a few things about the real-life Chris Gardner. Yeah, some of the core aspects of the story are true. But the biggest thing that bothered me was that the real-life Gardner actually earned $1000 per month while interning at Dean Witter. However, the movie would have us believe that Garder worked for free all that time with only a slim chance he'd get anywhere at the end of his internship. Now I'm not going to fault anybody for this, but there's a huge difference between earning nothing and earning $1000 per month, especially twenty-plus years ago. But that's just me being picky. I guess it just bugs me that more and more movies these days are "inspired" by a true story instead of "based on" a true story. If a story about a guy with absolutely nothing making the big time is going to sell a few more tickets, is that really a liberty you're entitled to take?

In terms of the rest of the movie, there's not a whole lot to complain about. I kinda miss Will Smith in the "Independence Day" and "Bad Boys" type roles that shot him to superstardom, but he's actually decent here and will likely earn a few nods this coming awards season. A lot has been made about Smith's son appearing in this movie, and he was okay too. I'm not sure he'll be earning any awards, but he certainly deserves a pinch on the cheek from a kindly old lady or maybe a lollipop or two. As for Thandie Newton. I actually kinda hated her character here. She was bitchy and selfish and Newton pulled it off with ease. There must be something about her that she's so good in the role of "bitchy wife". (She played a similar role in "Crash" opposite Terrence Howard.) I guess she's found something that's working for her and she's sticking with it.

I feel I should also bring up the whole "Happyness" thing. A lot of people have asked me why they spelled happiness wrong. I'm not going to give away anything here but it's explained in the movie. Even though it's not that big a deal, just know that it means something within the context of the story.

"The Pursuit of Happyness" is an uplifting movie that is sure to inspire even the harshest cynic. Sure, there has been a lot of talk this holiday movie season about Philadelphia's favorite underdog Rocky Balboa, but the real underdog this movie season is "The Pursuit of Happyness". This somewhat true-to-life rags-to-riches story is likely knock out the Italian Stallion in the early rounds and win the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.

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