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The American Dream In The Pursuit Of Happyness

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The Pursuit of happyness is a directorial venture by Gabriel Muccino and stars Will Smith, Thandie Newon and Jaden Smith in lead roles. The film got released in 2006 on December 15, with a runtime of 117 minutes. It is an autobiographical drama based on the memoir by the multi-millionaire Christopher Paul Gardner about his own life struggles.

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To summarize the theme of the film we have a scene where Chris is talking to his son and says, “If you want something, go get it. Period!” This dialogue from the film showcases the core theme, determination. The film is a blend of many other themes like fortitude in the face of hardships, survival, and courage.

“The Pursuit of Happyness” is the retelling of the same old story of the American Dream through the eyes of Italian director Gabriel Muccino. The film opens in 1981, San Francisco. Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) is struggling because he had invested all he had on portable bone density scanners. What he thought would change his and his family’s life turns out to be the cause of his struggles. He has to sell three scanners a month to provide for his wife Linda (played by Thandie Newton), and five-year-old son Christopher (played by Jaden Smith). The product that he has to sell in order to survive is considered as an “unnecessary luxury” by the physicians as it is much more expensive than the X-ray machines.

His wife Linda has to work more shifts to meet the basic requirements of the family which strains their relationship even more. The financial struggles make Chris realize that selling the scanners was not the solution to his problems. He decides to switch careers. He takes up a six month unpaid internship at a brokerage and securities firm “Dean Witter Reynolds”. The firm took on only twenty interns, and at the end of the internship would hire one out of the twenty. Linda is not happy with this decision and eventually leaves for New York to work. Christopher stays with his dad.

Linda leaving is just the starting of the setbacks in Chris’s life. Soon his account is garnished by the IRS because of unpaid taxes. Chris and his son get evicted with only $21. 33 left in his account. From spending the night in the restrooms to living in homeless shelters, Chris faces it all with courage. He has to sell the remaining of his scanners to survive while working as an intern. Chris manages to hide his financial situation form his superiors and somehow makes it through the six months. He is finally called for a meeting that will decide his fate in the firm. When he is informed that he has secured the position Chris finds it hard to fight back tears. He runs to his son’s day care and hugs him. The film makes the audience go through a roller coaster of emotions.

Mick LaSalle has rightly said that the film’s beauty lies in its honesty. 1 Italian director Gabriel Muccino has proved his potential with the story portrayed in a way that it all ties together. The film is backed up by Steven Conrad’s strong writing. The performances by the actors, especially Will Smith, has won over the hearts of the viewers. Will Smith has added his charm to the character which has helped in making Chris an inspiring character instead of being a character people only sympathize with. His chemistry with his real life son, Jaden Smith, has added to the magic. In the words of director Gabriele Muccino,

The film plays like a love story. But in this case we don’t have a woman and a man meeting each other. Instead, we have a father and son walking together through life. 2

The film has the premise of rags to riches story which puts a lot of pressure on it. It has to be different than what has already been told. The film fairs well but is mostly because of the skills of the lead actor Will Smith. His honesty and charisma makes us sit through the grim sections of the film.

The title of the film suggests that it would be an uplifting one. It seems like one of those films that is about a character’s journey to being happy. But in the entire film the storyline sets a grim tone with happiness striking at the very end. The director has also taken the liberty of adding a few things that didn’t happen in reality like the scene with Chris solving the Rubik’s cube in a taxi. Though, the scene doesn’t harm the story in any way.

Anyone who is a Will Smith fan would love watching him work with his real life son. Though, the film was rated PG-13 because of certain use of language in it. The Pursuit of Happyness fairs well in spite of a few hiccups throughout the film. It reassures the audience’s faith in hard work and determination. On leaving the theatres the viewers have warm feeling in their hearts and a smile on their faces. The film has a score of 64 on metacritic. com from over 688 user reviews and 200 critic reviews.

10 December 2020

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