Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Pursuit of Happyness

Year: 2006
Running time: 117 minutes
Certificate: 12
Language: English
Screenplay: Steve Conrad
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton

Smith's Chris Gardner, giving a more inspiring version of Gordon Gekko's
'Greed is Good' speech.
Call me cynical if you must, but the first thing I thought walking out of the cinema after watching The Pursuit of Happyness is: Is it Oscar season already? That time when the big stars and directors release their ‘serious’ films. Jaded as I am, I can still see that The Pursuit of Happyness ('happiness' is spelt wrong on purpose in reference to an early scene) has some good points. It’s a story about surviving any way you can and protecting your dreams and other Hollywood clich├ęs. It is done with smooth professionalism and Will Smith puts in a very fine performance (he is by far the best thing in this film) as Chris Gardner, a man struggling to make something of himself (although if he didn’t win for Ali, how can he possibly win for this?).

His marriage falls apart and his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) leaves him to look after their son Christopher (played by Jaden Smith, Will Smith's real-life offspring, giving their on-screen relationship real heart). Having made a bad investment, Chris now needs to find a way to support him and his son following the loss of everything he has. He takes on a six-month unpaid internship with little chance of a job at the end to become a stockbroker, during which he needs to sell the bone density scanners he bought (the previously noted bad investment) to stay afloat until his first pay cheque.

Rock bottom, shortly before turning it all around.
The biggest problem I have with this, is that you can substitute the word ‘Happyness’ in the title for the word ‘Money’ and the film will remain identical in every way. It's the American Dream come true, where if you're determined enough, and lucky enough you can become very rich (never mind those who aren't as lucky - they obviously didn't want it as much and as such deserve the hardship they must endure until death is the unspoken cold, clinical and unsympathetic message regarding the many, many people unable to pull a miracle out of a hat like Chris Gardner managed; that this is a true American rags-to-riches story where cut-throat capitalism is not only accepted as the only way to live, but revered as some kind of wonderful way of life makes me feel more than a little queasy). But, to be fair, when things are so bad you and your son have to sleep in a train station toilet, money probably is the same thing as happiness.

It’s alright, but certainly doesn't speak to my particular sensibilities.

Score: 5/10

It seems I'm not the only person to place this film in the middle of the pack, as shown by these reviews by Chris at Empire and Lexi at Cinema Blend.