Pursuit of Happyness
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe,
James Karen, Dan Castellaneta
Released by: Columbia Pictures
Short: Will Smith gives a strong performance
in this fact-based family drama—yet a
lack of dramatic tension keeps it from being
Rising From the Ashes
A Heartwarming Movie Perhaps
Better Suited to Lifetime
could make superstar Will Smith grey his hair, don spectacles
and play a struggling father circa 1970? The real-life
story of successful stockbroker Chris Gardner is what
did it, and Smith is already reaping the rewards of that
image change, having received Best Actor nominations from
both the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice voting bodies.
So it seems that shifting his persona has reaped benefits
for the talented actor.
gives a heartfelt performance as Gardner, who hit bottom
and ended up living on the street along with his young
son just as he had succeeded in getting a foot in the
door at a large brokerage firm. That unpaid opportunity
is too good to pass up, but the struggle to keep it together
is nearly too much for the pair to handle. Some dark days
follow for father and son as they fight for survival.
is much to like about the film, including a strong debut
performance by Jaden Smith, Will’s real-life son,
who gives his role a naturalness that bodes well for his
future success if he decides to continue in the family
business as he grows up. Thandie Newton is also fine as
the wife and mother, who reaches her breaking point and
leaves the two to fend for themselves.
problem with the movie is that there is no real tension.
Most savvy moviegoers will know going in that it ends
up well in the end—otherwise, we know that Hollywood
wouldn’t have made it in the first place. The process
of getting to that end is at times heartwrenching, often
heartwarming, and definitely a bit too long. And by the
time the end credits roll, viewers may feel that “The
Pursuit of Happyness” is the sort of nice film that
belongs on Lifetime, not on the big screen at $10 a ticket
of course, with such a high-profile actor like Will Smith
in the lead, it had to be a theatrical release. So if
seeing Smith shift gears and give a from-the-heart performance
is high on your list of things to do this holiday season,
check out the film in theaters. But otherwise, this is
one that will be just fine on your home screen when it
comes to DVD a few months down the line.