Comments on watching and making films.

Friday, January 11, 2008

DVD - The Pursuit of Happyness

Last years "feel good" holiday film, The Pursuit of Happyness, stars Will Smith as Chris Gardner, a man who is down on his luck, when his medical salesman job takes a dive, because no one wants to buy what he's selling. When his rough times don't seem to clear up, his wife/girlfriend (we're never really told which she is, though we do know he's the mother of his child), leaves for New York, leaving Chris with very little money, and a young child to take care of (played by Smith's real son, Jaden Smith).

Gardner is forced to move out of his apartment, and into a seedy hotel, because he is taking an unpaid internship with Dean Witter, to try and turn around his life. He uses his occasional sales of an X-Ray machine (that no one seems to be particularly interested in) to subsidize his life. But, when he runs out of machines to sell, almost two full months before his internship is over, his hand to mouth lifestyle is put in jeopardy. He even spends a night, with his son and all of his earthly possessions in a BART terminal bathroom, because he has nowhere else to stay. But Gardner's steely resolve keeps him moving ahead. he's at the bottom of the barrel, and he knows there's no lower to sink. He HAS to make this work, or he and his son are dead.

The Pursuit of Happyness is a true story, and, while I'm sure some of it has been slightly modified for drama, it is still an amazing story to witness. Will Smith is fantastic as a man at the end of his rope, trying to provide for his son, and keep his life together, all while trying to stay one step ahead of complete destitution. He really makes you feel the frustration of dealing with the crap that the world constantly piles on him, and, at times, I even found myself cheering him on when he would catch a break.

Smith has done a lot of stinkers lately. In fact, Ali and I Am Legend are, probably, the only two things he's done in a long time that I enjoyed. But Happyness is definitely joining that list. It's one of those "stand up and cheer" films, which are VERY difficult to do well.

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