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Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Written by Steve Conrad

One of the most likable stars of our time, a Will Smith picture always brings some sort of promise to the table.  Whether you like the movie or not, you’ll always come out saying, “Man, I love Will Smith!  Can I get a cup of coffee with this guy?  I’d do chores around his house just to hang out with him.”

His latest, The Pursuit of Happyness (the misspelling comes from the wall art at a day care), has all the makings of a great drama.  Chris Gardner (Smith) supports his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) and their son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Will’s son; and hey, are there enough Chris and Christophers in this paragraph for you, real and fictional?) in San Francisco by selling some sort of high density bone marrow X-ray dealie, one that is of high cost and hospitals aren’t snapping up left and right.  Linda works tons of overtime at some thankless hourly job to fill in the gaps, but the stress causes marital discord; she eventually leaves for New York, deciding mutually with Chris that he take care of their son.

Gardner becomes interested in being a stockbroker, and with great difficulty makes it into a competitive internship at Dean Witter, one that leads to a job for only one person by the end of it.  Being an unpaid venture, however, means that he still has to peddle this nearly unsalable medical equipment.  On top of all this, he starts getting hounded by the IRS and parking tickets and is eventually on the street with his son, day to day not knowing where their next meal is coming from or where they’re going to sleep.  With the Dean Witter internship seeming to be a long shot, it’s hard not to think gloom and doom.

Pursuit is a good story and has Smith’s commanding presence.  That counts for a lot, and the movie is enjoyable.  However, it has serious pacing issues, one that makes a normal two-hour movie seem like three. 

One of the film school maxims is “be prepared to cut your favorite scene” and Muccino seems to like them all, even those that bog the story down to a slow churn.  “Inspired by a true story” means that incredible liberties were likely taken with Gardner’s real-life story; and one subplot, if you want to call it that, has hippies making off with Gardner’s bone marrow equipment in two different scenes, complete with chases always ending on some sort of mass transit.  Though his medical equipment is labeled “a month’s worth of groceries” by Gardner in the movie, and his losing of the awkward machines means even more struggle, I think the movie would have been just fine cutting those scenes out or reducing the focus on them.

But most moviegoers aren’t going to be disappointed.  Will is great, and his son Jaden shows some chops, and you’ll likely be crying by the end.  Pacing, shmacing, you might say.  Shame on me, I guess, but I enjoyed it, so there.  At least by the end of this picture, our hero has earned his destiny, unlike our hero at the end of Eragon.


Comment from KW
Time: December 15, 2006, 1:08 pm

Previews for this looked good, but maybe a tad too sappy. We’ll see…as the girlfriend already has this one on her list. Meanwhile I still haven’t seen Blood Diamond, The Departed, or any of the other recently released DiCaprio films. :(

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