Optimistically Cautious

Monday, December 25, 2006

Film: "The Pursuit of Happyness"

After a traditional Christmas morning of opening presents together, my family and I went to watch The Pursuit of Happyness at South Edmonton Common. I saw the commercial for this movie a few weeks ago, and had intentions of watching it sometime this season.

Starring Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden, and inspired by a true story, Pursuit follows Chris Gardner, a San Francisco-based medical supplies salesman. One fateful day after meeting a rich stockbroker on the street, he decides to apply for and accept an unpaid internship with a brokerage firm in an attempt to secure a better future for himself and his son. The movie focuses on his rags-to-riches journey, and in particular, Gardner's struggle to prove himself amidst the struggle to support his son with very little time and means to do so.

The title comes from a misspelled wall mural next to the Chinatown daycare where Chris dropped his son off every morning, and is one of the many details drawn from the book on which the movie is based.

Overall, I thought the movie did a good job of chronicling the challenges Chris faced - from the breakdown of his relationship with his son's mother, to the lengthy daily commute between the firm, daycare, and homeless shelter, and most strikingly, the heartbreaking scene where Chris is forced to sleep in a train station restroom. At the same time, the movie was too long - my emotions felt like an overused punching bag - how many times can you realistically empathize with a character before wanting it all to just end? Worse, the concluding payoff was proportionally not worth it; after the rollercoaster ride of over 120 minutes of pain, the director didn't even allow the audience to celebrate with Chris in his triumph for any longer than five minutes. His jubilation seemed tacked on, an afterthought.

Moreover, the camera was shaky throughout the movie, with far too many close-ups. Though the filmmaker may have wanted a grittier aesthetic more closely aligning itself with the bumpy ride Chris was in for, it made the movie difficult to watch, and not because of the plotline. I also found Chris' voiceovers unnecessary. The movie was punctuated with "This part of my life is called..." which may or may not be a motif rescued from the book, but to me, they jolted me out of the action on screen.

Will Smith was well cast though. He definitely has the charming, well-spoken quality that Gardner likely personified. But as good as the older Smith was, his son took the cake. In his big screen debut, Jaden exemplified an unassuming, curious, and loving son, a perfect mirror of innocence that any father would try to protect from the harsh realities of the world.

I also appreciated the props from the 80s. Sometimes I think it might be more difficult to dress a set only ten to twenty years removed from the present, as opposed to a period piece set in Victorian England, for example. In this movie, they accomplished the escapism design via interior decoration, wardrobe, and advertising (remember the Campbell's, "Umm, umm, good" posters?).

So, it turns out happyness = wealth. Well, sort of.



Post a Comment

<< Home