THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS Shows the Positive Power of a Father’s Commitment
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: The following is a portion of our review of THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS that we are republishing in honor of Black History Month. For the full review, please click here.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is the inspiring true-life story of Chris Gardner’s pursuit of not one, but two dreams: financial success and everything that that could bring to the life of both he and his son, and the other is to end the cycle in his family of the absentee father. The pursuit of both of these dreams is what makes this an important movie about one man’s American and family dream come true.
Chris, played with brilliant passion by Will Smith, is a man struggling to make ends meet as a medical equipment salesman in the economically challenging Reagan Era of the 1980s. One day, after being turned down during a sales call, a chance meeting on the street sets Chris in motion to change his life for both he and his son. Chris decides to take a stressful internship at a highly competitive stock brokerage. Viewers are treated to all the ups and downs of the job. The long hours, quirky bosses, and the gopherish requests such as fetching coffee and parking the boss’s car that goes along with it. Chris works hard with the belief that, in the end, all his hard work is going to pay off for both he and his son.
As Chris begins his internship, his personal life starts to crumble. His wife buckles under the pressures and leaves him and their son for a life of her own. Chris is now alone, a single father determined to make life better for his son. Soon, however, father and son find themselves homeless. They spend their nights sleeping in shelters, busses and, at the truest low point, a public restroom. Through it all, the relationship between father and son is strengthened, sweetened and even in the middle of their circumstances full of love and trust.
It was a special treat to watch Will Smith perform his role as Chris Gardner and to see Will’s true life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith play the role of his onscreen son at the same time. This existing dynamic brought an intimacy and symmetry to these roles that is unforgettable. Jaden also does his fair share of steeling the spotlight from his dad from time to time. The acting by both Father and Son is exceptional, but this is a boy to watch.
Movies like PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS do not come along very often. The movie not only shows that it is possible to achieve the American Dream through hard work, it also shows that we can build strong families through commitment, love and trust, regardless of the circumstances. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is a highly inspirational movie. It easily exceeds its emotional and heartwarming trailer without being overly sappy. While the movie has an uplifting “work hard and anything is possible” message, the deepest theme is that of family. In effect, it is the positive power of the father’s commitment to and relationship with his son that helps the father overcome tough obstacles.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for young children due to some foul language.