The Pursuit of Happyness is just that, and you will have to ask yourself if that 116-minute pursuit is worth the happiness gleaned. Reluctantly, I say no.
This is an enthralling film with a fine performance by Will Smith as a man facing one roadblock after another while attempting to not only provide for his son, but also improve their lives.
Based on the true story of Chris Gardner broadcast three years earlier on 20/20, this film takes us through seven months in the life of Gardner and his son, which includes his wife abandoning them, the loss of more than one domicile, and an attempt to complete a six-month internship that comes without a salary.
Smith portrays Gardner with a stoic sense of resolve, and Jaden Smith (Will’s real life son) gives a well-coached performance as Gardner’s son Christopher. Together we watch them deal with situations that would push many beyond their capacity to cope, and can’t help but be drawn into this well-paced and directed story.
So, why my reluctant negative to the question posed? Too much of a bad thing followed by not enough good. It’s not difficult to see our ending coming as Hollywood rarely tells us tales with unhappy conclusions, and without being specific; our ending is a happy one. The problem is simply that we as an audience invest so much into our relationship with the characters, that to have the happiness conveyed to us as nothing more than a few paragraphs displayed on the screen is extremely unsatisfying.
The show business creed of always leaving the audience wanting more is generally a good one, but in the case of The Pursuit of Happyness it is nothing but a source of frustration as we know there is no more of this story to come. A sequel would fail, and thus we are left to ponder how our hero copes with his newfound success.
Smith certainly deserves the accolades he is receiving for this performance, and the story garnered both tears and applause in the theater during my viewing, but this is an incomplete story. Perhaps it was the Hollywood unwritten policy of keeping films at two hours, or the failure of the writers to determine a vehicle in which they could properly convey a level of success bestowed upon our characters without instilling a fromage factor upon the endeavor. Either way; after investing the time and feeling the pain, we deserved more satisfaction.
Recommendation: Wait for the DVD, and watch it with Enemy of the State, so you get a chance to see what happens when Will Smith takes control of a situation.
Written by Hombre Divertido