The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 2006, , , Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by , , , , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .   

contributes a great deal of energy and heart to this moving true tale of struggle, based on Chris Gardner’s memoirs about his path to success as a stockbroker.  Struggling to keep his family together under the harsh and unforgiving realities of Reagan-era trickle-down economics, Gardner sells bone-density scanners to reluctant doctors to make ends meet but is barely doing so, his exasperated wife () working double-shifts as a cleaner just to help pay rent and keep their young son (Smith’s real-life son ) in daycare. When he sees the opportunity to join an internship program that could lead to a job at a high-ranking brokerage, Gardner takes it only to find his life fall completely apart at the very same time: Newton leaves him, money becomes even more of an issue and soon he and his child are fending for themselves on the street when they can’t even keep up with motel rent.  Gardner knows he’s just a whisper away from falling into the slippery abyss that comes with homelessness, keeping his attitude positive and never giving up despite the Hydra-like problems that keep doubling every time he thinks he has solved them.  This heavy drama plays its most devastating moments without too much sentimental flourish but isn’t without the kind of mechanized heartstring-pulling that studio films can’t resist: director Gabriele Muccino never allows the characters to be reduced to mere emotional symbols, it’s real people who are forced to sleep in a subway bathroom and their plight is never softened by any emphasis on the younger Smith’s child-star cuteness.  That said, there’s also no need for the narration and there are more than a few times where Muccino loses his confidence and swells the musical score to instruct your tearful response.   The moment at the end, where all of Gardner’s suffering is rewarded, is performed beautifully by a very contained and confident star; his combining his familiar charisma with far more sincerity than he has ever shown on film before is at the heart of why this film feels as personal as it does.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Actor (Will Smith)

Golden Globe Award Nominations Best Actor-Drama (Will Smith); Best Original Song (“A Father’s Way”)

Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination:  Best Male Actor (Will Smith)

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