The Pursuit of Happyness is one of the most quoted films ever made, you see it all the time plastered all over the internet. Chris Gardner standing against the fence telling his son “Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it.“. One of the most recognised and mainstream biopics ever made the film is made so much more powerful by the fact that it is based off the true story of now globally recognised American businessman Christopher Gardner. But that isn’t to say the film doesn’t have it’s ups and downs.
The film follows the story of Chris Gardner whom goes through the ‘stages’ of his life over the course of the entire movie and in many ways this foundation sets a strong pace that leads The Pursuit of Happyness to be neither to fast or two slow and rather somewhere in the middle ground exactly where a piece like this needs to be. The audience experiences the harsh reality of a man whom is so powerfully devoted to himself, his family and to the seeking of ‘Happyness’ but at the same time comes up against the strain of a bad investment made in his naïve youth.
Chris battles a broken relationship, financial instability, homelessness and mental torture all whilst trying to do right by his son. In an attempt to escape the mundane difficulties of staying put Chris puts everything on the line to become a stock broker on Wall Street leading him to lose his relationship, his home and himself for much of the film.
The casting work of The Pursuit of Happyness has to be applauded, a young Jaden Smith puts in a top performance as ‘Christopher’ the son of his same named father Will Smith (Who could’ve guessed the family relatives would have great on screen chemistry). This is certainly one of Will Smith’s best and most substantial works and his effort portraying Chris Gardner is not to be understated either. You’ll very quickly take a strong attachment to Chris and his Son which is obviously partly due to the writing but in many ways equally so the top performances in those main roles. Thandie Newton as ‘Linda’ also gives a really emotionally charged performance that adds to volatility of the scenes in which herself and Will Smith interact, particularly as the film progresses.
The character arks and plotline (Although based off a true story) were also extremely well done. No character of importance was left without significant development with some powerful moments packed in between. Although it has to be said that the end of the film whilst putting a nice tie on things felt somewhat rushed and cut short, giving the audience a sense of finality but not so much the satisfaction that the events previous really merited. Chris seems to go through such an immense journey of highs and lows, rushing through the experiences most have in a lifetime in such a short amount of time just to end it all with some fist bumps and the deeming of the final stage of his life as ‘Happiness’. Whilst this does the job it perhaps doesn’t quite hit the mark perfectly.
With that being said The Pursuit of Happyness delves into some pretty intense and profound themes and ideas and does so in a clever, witty and enthralling way throughout most of its journey. Various scenes here and there probably weren’t necessary but the concept of the Rubix Cube (And the scene in the Taxi), the word happiness being spelt ‘Happyness’ on the outside of Chris’ son’s daycare and a lot of the advice that Chris gives to his son being really advice to himself were all catalysts for success in battling the life story of Chris Gardner in a creatively impressive way.
The life lessons were always going to be the focal point of a film like this and what The Pursuit of Happyness does right that so many other films like it don’t is that it does not preach, choosing to show rather than tell and avoiding cliques (not entirely but mostly) to get it’s point across not just about happiness, but really the nature of being human as a whole also.
The Pursuit of Happyness is a powerful and witty biopic that takes the example of Chris Gardner to delve into some of the harshest faucets of life that some may choose to ignore. Excellently casted and written The Pursuit of Happyness rarely gives you reason to take your eyes off the screen, boasting well rounded character arks and impressively compacted messages. An emotional rollercoaster The Pursuit of Happyness falls short in its ending but it’s successes make it nonetheless a fantastic watch.