Disclaimer: I am by no means a film critic and everything I say is my subjective opinion.
The Pursuit of Happyness came out in 2006, so once again, I am a little bit late with this review. Nevertheless, having just seen it, I will crack on.
The film follows the life of Chris Gardener (beautifully played by Will Smith), a struggling salesman in San Francisco who struggles every month to make ends meet. It seems he has more financial problems than the rest of us have in a lifetime, yet he still walks past you with a smile on his face. He sells portable bone density scanners to doctors and hospitals around the city and is in such a struggle that he has to literally run around the city holding them.
One day Chris manages to impress a partner at a prestigious stockbroking firm by solving the newly invented Rubik’s Cube during a taxi journey and earns an interview at their firm. When he attends the interview, he has just run from a police station after being held overnight in jail for failure to pay parking fines and is wearing a paint splattered clothes as he had to paint his apartment in order to convince his landlord to give him some time to scrape some money together to pay his rent. Despite this, his frank attitude and positive personality win over the partners and he secures the internship spot in the firm as he believes this is the key to his financial freedom.
A theme running throughout the film is the deteriorating relationship with his wife, Linda (played by Thandie Newton), who is becoming more and more unhappy due to increasing struggle of the family’s financial situation. It appears that the only thing keeping them in contact is the responsibility of looking after their son Christopher (played by a very young Jaden Smith). As Linda moves to new York to take up a job there, Chris has to juggle scanner sales, his internship and looking after his son. His struggles for time are very well portrayed as he literally spends half his life running around trying to get from A to B. Once the IRS seizes all the funds in his bank account for some unpaid taxes, he is left with $21.33 to live off, as he is also evicted for not being able to pay rent.
Throughout the film, Will Smith narrates his situation and talks about the pursuit of happiness. In my opinion, it is the moments like these where he talks directly to the viewer which give the film its deep insight into the pursuit of happiness. It provides the film structure as he labels parts of the film as “chapters” in his life and gives the film an extra layer of emotional depth.
One of the most powerful things about this film is the relationship between Chris and his son. It, of course, helps that the actors Will Smith and Jaden Smith are father and son in real life but the chemistry between the two characters is incredible. At times where Will Smith is low, the simplicity of his son’s character is a complete contrast to his. He doesn’t understand the struggle of his father to meet ends meet and so is constantly baffled by the decisions his father makes. He finds joy in the simplest things as children do and he is unbeknownst to the financial struggle of his father.
In this film, happiness can be considered synonymous with financial freedom. All of these bills that Chris has to pay is like a weight bearing him down, which are only lifted at the end. The beauty of this film shows the value of hard work. Despite all of the ordeals he faces, he never turns down any challenge set at the firm, and simply finds a way to solve it. During his interview, one of the things he says is that if faced with a problem he cannot solve, he won’t try to BS his way through, he will accept that he can’t do it, however, he will not rest until he finds a way to solve the problem. This attitude is prominent throughout his time at the firm. Due to his lack of time, he never puts the phone down (to save a precious few seconds) and never even drinks any water (so he doesn’t have to waste time in the toilet).
The ending of this film is as you would expect. Chris Gardener is rewarded for his ordeals and wins the position of the paid broker at the firm. The final scene of the film is Chris Gardner with his son, walking down the streets of San Francisco, now the millionaire founder of his own prestigious firm.