Title: The Pursuit of Happyness
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Production Company: Sony/Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
TradReviews Rating: Family 14
Excellence: 5 Stars
Why: An inspirational movie – a feel-good movie without being sentimental. No objectionable parts to speak of.
Summary in a Sentence: A man who will stop at nothing to protect his child and hold together his drive and motivation.
In this day and age, it is rare when one is able to unconditionally recommend a movie to everyone he sees, as I have done for this movie over the past 2 weeks. I think when a movie is not only so well made, but so well-meaning, we are anxious to spread the word, especially when there are so many terrible movies just lurking around the corner.
I will try to make this review short and much less expository than I am wont to do, for I wish to encourage you to see this movie.
The story is essentially about a man, Chris Gardner, who runs into a rough financial patch with his family, and what he does to extricate himself from that patch and what it takes to keep his son with him the entire time.
Chris is very ably played by Will Smith, who, Men in Black and Independence Day aside, has over and over demonstrated that his SAG membership is not a joke. His real life son acts as his character’s son in this movie, and that added layer of truth brings an added layer of complexity to the story.
As we see Gardner go through these difficult times, set against the lovely backdrop of San Francisco, a truly magical city, we marvel not only at the depth of Smith’s acting, but the effortless way that the story impels you forward. Truly, we are familiar with the underdog story, and as Americans, it is our very mother’s milk, but this one is just a bit different.
Some of my Christian friends have brought up the fact that there is not an explicit scene in the movie where Gardner prays to God. There is a scene in a Unitarian shelter chapel in which he, holding his son, is swaying to the music – and his character’s nature is such that he perhaps wraps all his sentiments, love of God, love of his son, and desire to succeed, into one overarching attitude. So, while we may not see Gardner being overtly Christian, or even, deistic, the way that his character acts and his overall accountability to his son shows you that the “seeds of faith” are there.
Thandie Newton turns in a wrenching and very believable (albeit short) performance as the frustrated, broken wife of Gardner who ends up abandoning him and their son when the “going gets rough”, and as I alluded to above, the city of San Francisco also plays an excellent supporting role, providing scenery, community, and relationships that only a “city” in its truest sense can provide.
The scene near the very end of the movie will not leave a dry eye in the movie house. I, of course, pretended that something was in my eye, but I was as caught off-guard as anyone else was when the success we knew was just within Chris’s grasp finally comes into his hands.
Recommended unconditionally. See it to be inspired. See it to let a man take away all excuses for mediocrity. See it to watch how true character allows one to act boldly and bravely, even when abandoned by all his friends and family.