Cynics out there will undoubtedly accuse Will Smith (Ali) of using his real-life son (newcomer to the big screen Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) in The Pursuit of Happyness to pull audiences’ heartstrings in his favor for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. We, however, believe that both father and son deserve all the acclaim and accolades they get for turning in excellent performances, and that Smith’s critics really should lighten up.
Based on an inspiring true story, Chris Gardner (Smith Sr.) is a struggling salesman in the early ’80s who strives to be a stockbroker and provide a comfortable life for his son Christopher (Smith Jr.). An admirable dream, no doubt, but with a dead-end job and his wife Linda (Thandie Newton, Crash) out of the picture, those hopes are seemingly beyond his reach. When his only chance is an unpaid internship at stock brokerage firm Dean Witter, Chris does everything he can to get a full-time position, even if it means homelessness and hardship for him and Christopher in the meantime.
The more emotional moviegoers better be well stocked with tissues before catching this film, because both Smith Sr. and Jr. deliver genuinely touching performances. The bond and natural chemistry between the pair will certainly resonate long after the show’s end, particularly for fathers and sons. The story does tread into overly sappy territory once in a while, but thanks to the two leads’ genuine performances the film never loses credibility.
Beyond the Smith clan, however, the rest of the film pales. Director Gabrielle Muccino’s (The Last Kiss) shots are ordinary; certainly nothing memorable. The rest of the cast delivers decent enough performances, but none really match up to the father and son team. All in all, The Pursuit of Happyness is a decent film, made all the better by the Smiths.
So, How Was The Book?
The book, by the real Chris Gardner and Quincy Trope, after which the film was made, succeeds in engaging the reader as much as the film. A fascinating and touching real life story, it’s a must-read.