When it comes to film making, the subject of rags to riches tales have been one of the most common subject for many filmmakers. Most film viewers have watched a number of movies that revolve around a financially broken protagonist making it big. However, in the post Y2k era, it is a common perception among many that a movie has to be high on graphics, special effects and budget in order to make its mark on the audience. Low budget rags to rich tales are seldom able to leave a significant mark over the audience and enjoy little limelight at the box office.
The 2006 Will Smith starrer, 'The Pursuit of Happyness," is clearly not just another tale of how a man starts fro dire to economical circumstances and makes it big. The Pursuit of Happyness, despite of not being a high budget movie and any other noticeabke special effects, is utterly inspirational and high on emotional appeal. The genre of the movie is of a biographical drama, that is inspired from a true story of Chris Gardener, a man who struggled from ground zero to become an owner of an established brokerage company. It takes the viewers on a journey of hurdles, hardships and struggles that Chris had to go through in order make ends meet. What makes the movie's eotional appeal stronger is how the movie does not monotonously focuses on 'making it big', but manages tp touch smoothly upon how the struggling protagonist gave importance to his family ties.
For the most part, the movie remains smooth, natural and simple and it is this natural and simplicity that striked the audience's emotional strings and helped developing a stronger connection with the audience. That said, despite of its steady pace, a series of never ending hurdles that the protagonist is made to face in order to reach his goal, has made the movie mentally exhaustive at some points. Nevertheless, The pursit of Happyness beautifully explores the struggle for success and survival of an individual and the underlying layers of emotions and pain in a natural and honest manner.
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Pinkett Smith, Thandie Newton.
Director: Gabriel Muccino
Production Company: Columbia Pictures
Set in a San Fransico of 1981, the movie starts with a downtrodden family life of the central character of the movie, 'The Pursuit of Happyness', Chris Gardner (Will Smith). Chris has invested all his family savings in a lot of bone density scanner machines which are to be sold to the local healthcare community. The investment becomes a financial burden on the family as the healthcare community show little interest, if any, in purchasing the costly device. Neverthelss, Chris continues to struggle as a salesman everyday and come home only to face conflicts and questions with his wife Linda Gardner (Thandie Newton) who works double shifts at a seedy laundary, is getting mentally exhausted with the fact that she could see no signs of improvements in their financial situation anytime soon. Their five-year-old son Christopher Jr. (Jaden Pinkett Smith) becomes a regular witness to the conflicts between his parents.
Chris leaves his house every morning carrying the bone density scanning device, giving hopes to his family but his returning back with the device in his hand tells the story of another failure. As a result, the primary source of survival for the family remains Linda's meagre income from her shifts in laundary. Despite of Linda's continued pressurizing, Chris remains strong and determined and tries to assure her that he is trying his best and things will get better. Chris's main motivation remains his only five-year-old son, Christopher Jr., who spends his day at a local day care center while his parents struggle to make their lives better. While Christopher Jr. remains regular witness to his mothers dissappointments and quaralles with his father, he finds Chris, his father calm, composed and warm. With Linda being on the demanding end, the only strong emotional bond in the family is left between the father and the son. All of Christopher Jr.'s conversations are mainly with his dad only.
Life takes a 180 degree turn when one day, while on his regular spree for selling the bone density scanners, Chris runs into an opportunity to make it big. He discoveres a major brokerage firm offering a six-month internship program that is unpaid, towards the end of which only one out of the nineteen internees would be offered a permenant position in the company. With the probability of making it to finishing line already too low, Chris's weak educational background makes things much more difficult to him. Nevertheless he decides to take the gamble with a strong belief that he will succeed. However, his decision of joining a six-month unpaid internship comes as a blow to his wife Linda. As a result, Linda announces she has had it enough and leaves for New York in search of a better future, abondoning her husband and her only child. Linda's departure leaves major implications on the lives of both the father and the son as Linda's earnings were a major source of survival for them. With a six-month unpaid internship that includes a rigourous cirriculum followed by a difficult examination, Chris now has to continue to sell the bone density scanners on the sieline along with an added responsibility of taking care of his son Christopeher Jr. Things become worse when the last bit of Chris's money in his back account are confiscated by the U.S. Income Tax department as a result of his unpaid taxes. Unable to an already overdue rent, Chris is kicked out of his apartment along with his son and moves in a motel. Circumstances again force him out of the motel and the father and son now become homeless. This is followed by an emotionally intense sequence where Chris spends the night with his son in a subway's bathroom. Chris then finds accomodation in a homeless shelter offered by the United Methodist Church, however due to a very limited space, Chris has to ensure making it to the shelter in time daily in order to secure a place in the shelter for himslef and his son. Chris has to carry his luggage to his workplace and back everyday since he has no foxed permenant accomodation.
Chris's life at the brokerage firms continues to become difficult as his supervisor soninue to give him a tough time and expects him to perform well in aspects that go much beyond the conventional official work. His contender internees at the borkerage firm belong to a much stronger educational backgrounds and a much stronger resume. Despite all that Chris remains steadfast towards his goal with his only mental relaxation being the time he spends with his son, who sorely misses his mother's absence.
Chris's roller coaster ride takes its fnal stop at the climax scene where the results of the examination are announced an Chris is to be called for his most awaited panel interview that will be deciding his fate. Owing to his circumstances, he makes it to the interview in an unsuitable appearance and is almost mentally prepared that he has lost the job. His emotions however become uncontrollable when he becomes the chosen one out of the nineteen contending internees and in time becomes the owner of Chris Gardner Brokerage Company.
The Pursuit of Happyness may seem to be a conventional cliche rag to riches story but in its essence, it is much deeper and manages to hold the audiences attention. The beauty of the movie remains its consistent honesty and natural touch that keeps the movie close to reality. As a result of the lack of any superficial elements, the audience find it easier to develop a smooth connection with Chris. What makes the movie more compelling is its emotional intensity that is depicted by the emotional bond between the father and the son rather than a mere jouney of a poor man towards financial success. The casting of Will Smith and his real life son Jaden Smith proved out to be an intelligent move, as it helped giving a strong natural touch to the emotional bond and on screen chemistry between the two actors. Jaden's ease with the camera and his comfort level was evident throughout the film and his natural innocence and adorable exptressions not only helped keeping the emotional drama consistent throughput the movie, but also acted as a strong tool that compelled the audience to remain hooked to the screen throughout the 117 minutes of the movie's running time.
While the storyline of the movie itself was nothing too uncommon, the storytelling was done exceptionally well with various layers of life being enclosed in a 117 minutes drama transitioning smoothly. Every character had its own in depth story to tell however, it was felt that Linda's character was a bit sidelined and there was very little focus on…