The Pursuit of Happyness is a movie about a great part of the life of Chris Gardner, a man who went through near – unsurpassable obstacles to reach success in his life – that is, success in the sense that he makes good money by running a profitable business and providing for his family, and unsurpassable obstacles in the sense that he had to at one point – lock the door at a men’s Oakland subway station’s bathroom so he can sleep there at night.
You can imagine that this is a true inspirational, dramatic sobfest, and it is. It leaves no doubt that Chris Gardner, who made his money via the stock market, is a man made of true stern stuff. His determination and single – minded purpose is incredible, regardless of how he is interpreted by Will Smith. And I say that because Will Smith is a truly impressive character just as well, but I’ll get to that a little later on.
See, to me, for every story telling of the life of a living person, especially of an impressive character such as Gardner’s, you’ve got to assume at least either a little – to heapfuls of servings of editing. Editing in terms of some parts he doesn’t want to say get cut out, and some parts he wants to highlight get, well, highlighted. It’s but natural. I’d do that, if someone were to write a movie about me.
Which is not to say that I don’t think Gardner is a truly impressive man. The mere mention of where he came from to where he ended up already establishes this isn’t your ordinary Joe. But to me, assuming he is the kind of man I think he is (and the movie supports this), and that he wouldn’t let such a project exist without his hand in describing his story, I assume, (and I’m probably correct), he went through the details of this movie with a fine tooth comb, and the result is this – an impressive story still, but one told through his eyes and his mouth.
Take for example, the kid – glove treatment the movie takes on Chris’s former workmates and bosses at Dean Witter Reynolds, the first broker firm he joined. For the first time ever, here is a movie with a black main protagonist with rich white superiors who isn’t being discriminated in any way, nor is he railing, going on about it or even joking about it (this is Will Smith by the way) as well. This is a first in modern American cinematic history, in my opinion. To be honest, I actually found it rather refreshing. Oh stop it if you think I’ve any opinion about that matter whatsoever. As an outsider looking in at America via it’s movies, television and music, I’ve more or less an idea what’s going on there, or at least what those three mediums allow me to see. But in this case, his bosses were absolute angels. Not, mind you, that I don’t believe such gracious people exist. I have had experiences with benevolent superiors in my life as well. But in this movie, they are honest, good people who gave him a chance because he deserved it. A black man. A chance, in a mostly white firm in the 80s. There are lots of directors who can make whole movies out of just that.
So is it completely factual? Hell how would I – or anyone – know, and to what degree? So you’ll have to disregard that issue – which isn’t something I or anyone can do about anyway. And as such, the only thing you’re left to judge is the story, and the actor’s performances. Just push it all aside, and watch it.
And after doing so, I am left with the impression that it is a great story of an impressive man, and he is played by a terrific actor and his son. And what an actor and son. Of course I couldn’t help thinking at some point, damn that’s the Fresh Prince, and his cute looks – like – Jada son. But only for a brief moment, after which Smith just takes you on a journey, takes you to the aforementioned Oakland subway bathroom, the cheap motel and the decrepit apartment before that. The toughness of the neighborhoods. The weakness of his first wife. The worry that his kid might not be getting a proper education at his cheap day care. The absolute hard facts of having only a few dollars in your pocket, and nowhere to stay for the night, and a small mouth to feed other than your own.
There is no doubt to my mind that Smith is the reason for this movie’s success. That’s right, the Fresh Prince, holding his own. He can make us laugh and dance and now cry. And I left the theatre thinking just that. So if I was a producers of the movie – I’d be happy with the fact this is a compelling story played by a fine fine actor. I’d be happy with that.