The Pursuit of Happyness

I might just have to amend one of my 2006 Awards. Back in December I was unable to come up with a 2006 movie that I loved. However, Marathon Girl had a rare night out alone this weekend and saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. By far that was the best film of 2006 – even though I waited until 2007 to see it.  (There might be some spoilers if you keep reading so do so at your own risk.)   The Pursuit of Happyness is about the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith) a struggling salesman who decides to enroll in an unpaid internship with the hopes of making big bucks as a stockbroker. His wife has recently left him so he has to find time to care and provide for his son while working at the internship.   We all know how movies like this are going to end. How many of us shell out seven bucks to see a movie where the guy everyone is rooting for loses? What sets this movie apart from other inspiring but cheesy flicks is the realistic struggle and emotions that come across in the film. Anyone's who ever had to struggle with the burden of supporting a family and or wanting able to provide for their children can easily relate to the emotional rollercoaster Garnder goes through. Which is part of the reason we celebrate and cheer with him when his hard work and determination finally pay off at the end of the movie.

However, the emotional reality made certain scenes difficult to watch – not because of crudeness, gory violence or excessive nudity – but because they were so heart wrenching. There's one scene where Gardner is sleeping on the floor of a public restroom with his son. Someone is pounding on the door, wanting to get in. Gardner clutches his son and weeps silently. All I could think about during that was what if it was me on the bathroom floor holding one of my kids. Let's just say the tears flowed freely.

The father son relationship is very realistic. Gardner isn’t a perfect dad. There’s times when he’s short with is son (played by Smith’s real life son Jaden) because of the stress he experiences but it’s also quite obvious he loves his son very much and Gardner does his best to keep look after the needs of his son despite the lack of financial resources. The on screen chemistry between the two Smiths is perfect.

The only complaint I had about the movie was that when Gardner’s wife left him, I didn’t feel they had shown us enough of her frustration and helplessness that we could empathize with her when she finally made the decision to pack up and leave her husband and son. The movie runs a little over two hours as is so maybe the powers at be felt there wasn’t time to go in her character more which was unfortunate. I wanted to understand her feelings and thoughts behind her decision to leave – even if it was one I didn’t agree with.

But even with that one flaw, the movie was fantastic. The audience we say it with erupted in applause as the movie ended. If you haven’t seen it already, go see it. (And when you do, bring plenty of Kleenex.)

**** stars (out of 4)