The Pursuit of Happyness
|The Pursuit of Happyness|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gabriele Muccino|
|Produced by||Will Smith|
|Written by||Steven Conrad|
|Music by||Andrea Guerra|
|Editing by||Hughes Winborne|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||117 minutes|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2013)|
The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical drama film based on Chris Gardner's nearly one-year struggle with homelessness. Directed by Gabriele Muccino, the film features Will Smith as Gardner, an on-and-off-homeless salesman. Smith's son Jaden Smith co-stars, making his film debut as Gardner's son, Christopher Jr.
The screenplay by Steven Conrad is based on the best-selling memoir written by Gardner with Quincy Troupe. The film was released on December 15, 2006, by Columbia Pictures. For his performance, Smith was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor. The unusual spelling of the film's title comes from graffiti on a wall that Chris sees near the beginning of the film. In the movie, "happiness" is incorrectly spelled as "happyness" on the wall outside the daycare facility Gardner's son attends.
In 1981 San Francisco, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) invests his entire life savings in portable bone-density scanners which he demonstrates to doctors and pitches as a handy quantum leap over standard X-rays. While he is able to sell most of them, the time lag between the sales and his growing financial demands enrage his already bitter and alienated wife Linda (Thandie Newton), who eventually leaves him and moves to New York. After Linda bluntly says she is incapable of being a single mother, she agrees that their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) will remain with his father. While downtown trying to sell one of the scanners, Chris meets Jay Twistle (Brian Howe), a manager for Dean Witter and impresses him by solving a Rubik's Cube during a short taxi ride. Chris does not have enough money to pay the Asian taxi driver, so he escapes, resulting in the taxi driver chasing him into a subway station, screaming and shouting for his money along the way. Chris boards a train but loses one of his bone scanners in the process . This new relationship with Twistle earns him the chance to become an intern stockbroker, employee.
Despite arriving at his new office unkempt and shabbily dressed due to being arrested the previous day for unpaid parking tickets (and having had to paint his apartment, as his landlord grudgingly says he will give Chris and his son a little more time living there if they get the place ready for an incoming tenant before they depart), Chris is offered the internship. Chris is further set back when his bank account is garnished by the IRS for unpaid income taxes, and he and his young son are evicted. Chris becomes broke and has less than thirty dollars in his bank account. As a result they are homeless, and are forced at one point to stay in a restroom at a subway station.
Motivation drives him to find the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, which has a homeless shelter for single mothers and their children. The church's owner will not allow him to stay there and Chris will not agree to leave Christopher there alone, although she tells him about a local church that also provides shelter, but has very limited space. Due to demand for the limited rooms, Chris must frantically race from his internship work early each afternoon in order to land a place in line. Chris finds the bone scanner that he lost in the subway station from a demented man who had been carrying it around, believing it to be a time machine, and the scanner is now damaged, but Chris finally repairs it and is able to sell it.
Disadvantaged by his limited work hours, and knowing that maximizing his client contacts and profits is the only way to earn the one paid position that he and his 19 competitors are fighting for, Chris develops a number of ways to make phone sales calls more efficiently. He also reaches out to potential high value customers, defying protocol. One sympathetic prospect who is a top-level pension fund manager even takes him and his son to a San Francisco 49ers game. Regardless of his challenges, Chris never reveals his lowly circumstances to his co-workers, even going so far as to lend one of his bosses five dollars for a cab, a sum he can't afford.
Concluding his internship, Chris is called into a meeting with his managers. One of them notes he is wearing a new shirt—and then smiles and says he should wear it again tomorrow, letting him know he has won the coveted full-time position. Fighting back tears, he rushes to his son's daycare, hugging him. They walk down the street, joking with each other and are passed by a man in a business suit (the real Chris Gardner in a cameo appearance). The epilogue reveals that Chris went on to become a successful man and to form his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm.
- Will Smith as Chris Gardner
- Jaden Smith as Christopher Gardner Jr.
- Thandie Newton as Linda Gardner
- Brian Howe as Jay
- Dan Castellaneta as Alan Frakesh
- James Karen as Martin Frohm
- Kurt Fuller as Walter Ribbon
- Takayo Fischer as Mrs. Chu
Chris Gardner realized his story had Hollywood potential after an overwhelming national response to an interview he did with 20/20 in January 2002. He published his autobiography on May 23, 2006, and later became an associate producer for the film. The movie took some liberties with Gardner's true life story. Certain details and events that actually took place over the span of several years were compressed into a relatively short time and although eight-year-old Jaden portrayed Chris as a five year-old, Gardner's son was just a toddler at the time.
Chris Gardner reportedly thought Smith, an actor best known for his performances in action movies, was miscast to play him. However, he said his daughter Jacintha "set him straight" by saying, "If Smith can play Muhammad Ali, he can play you!"
Gardner makes a cameo appearance in the film, walking past Will and Jaden in the final scene. Gardner and Will acknowledge each other; Will then looks back at Gardner walking away as his son proceeds to tell him knock-knock jokes.
|4.||"Trouble at Home"||1:30|
|5.||"Rubiks Cube Taxi"||1:53|
|8.||"Night at Police Station"||1:36|
|10.||"Where's My Shoe"||4:20|
|11.||"To the Game/Touchdown"||1:37|
Deviation from actual events
Although generally faithful to the series of events, many subtle details deviate from the actual event.
- The age of Chris' son: in the film he is five years old whereas in reality he was two years old.
- The arrest of Chris: in the film he was arrested for unpaid parking tickets whereas in reality he was visited by police on charges of domestic abuse and later found to have unpaid parking tickets.
- The income of Chris: in the film he is shown selling bone density scanners whereas in reality, while he sold medical supplies, he never sold a bone density scanner.
The film debuted first at the North American box office, earning $27 million during its opening weekend and beating out heavily promoted films such as Eragon and Charlotte's Web. It was Smith's sixth consecutive #1 opening and one of Smith's consecutive $100 million blockbusters. The film grossed $162,586,036 domestically in the US and Canada. In the hope Gardner's story would inspire the down-trodden citizens of Chattanooga, Tennessee to achieve financial independence and to take greater responsibility for the welfare of their families, the mayor of Chattanooga organized a viewing of the film for the city's homeless. Gardner himself felt that it was imperative to share his story for the sake of its widespread social issues. "When I talk about alcoholism in the household, domestic violence, child abuse, illiteracy, and all of those issues—those are universal issues; those are not just confined to ZIP codes," he said.
The film was released on DVD on March 27, 2007 and as of November 2007, US Region 1 DVD sales accounted for an additional $89,923,088 in revenue, slightly less than half of what was earned in its first week of release. About 5,570,577 units have been sold, bringing in $90,582,602 in revenue.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle observed, "The great surprise of the picture is that it's not corny . . . The beauty of the film is its honesty. In its outlines, it's nothing like the usual success story depicted on-screen, in which, after a reasonable interval of disappointment, success arrives wrapped in a ribbon and a bow. Instead, this success story follows the pattern most common in life — it chronicles a series of soul-sickening failures and defeats, missed opportunities, sure things that didn't quite happen, all of which are accompanied by a concomitant accretion of barely perceptible victories that gradually amount to something. In other words, it all feels real."
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film "a fairy tale in realist drag . . . the kind of entertainment that goes down smoothly until it gets stuck in your craw . . . It's the same old bootstraps story, an American dream artfully told, skillfully sold. To that calculated end, the film making is seamless, unadorned, transparent, the better to serve Mr. Smith's warm expressiveness . . . How you respond to this man's moving story may depend on whether you find Mr. Smith's and his son's performances so overwhelmingly winning that you buy the idea that poverty is a function of bad luck and bad choices, and success the result of heroic toil and dreams."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film three out of a possible four stars and commented, "Smith is on the march toward Oscar . . . [His] role needs gravity, smarts, charm, humor and a soul that's not synthetic. Smith brings it. He's the real deal."
In Variety, Brian Lowry said the film "is more inspirational than creatively inspired—imbued with the kind of uplifting, afterschool-special qualities that can trigger a major toothache . . . Smith's heartfelt performance is easy to admire. But the movie's painfully earnest tone should skew its appeal to the portion of the audience that, admittedly, has catapulted many cloying TV movies into hits . . . In the final accounting, [it] winds up being a little like the determined salesman Mr. Gardner himself: easy to root for, certainly, but not that much fun to spend time with."
Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times stated, "Dramatically it lacks the layering of a Kramer vs. Kramer, which it superficially resembles . . . Though the subject matter is serious, the film itself is rather slight, and it relies on the actor to give it any energy. Even in a more modest register, Smith is a very appealing leading man, and he makes Gardner's plight compelling . . . The Pursuit of Happyness is an unexceptional film with exceptional performances . . . There are worse ways to spend the holidays, and, at the least, it will likely make you appreciate your own circumstances."
In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall graded the film B- and added, "[It] is the obligatory feel-good drama of the holiday season and takes that responsibility a bit too seriously . . . the film lays so many obstacles and solutions before its resilient hero that the volume of sentimentality and coincidence makes it feel suspect . . . Neither Conrad's script nor Muccino's redundant direction shows [what] lifted the real-life Chris above better educated and more experienced candidates, but it comes through in the earnest performances of the two Smiths. Father Will seldom comes across this mature on screen; at the finale, he achieves a measure of Oscar-worthy emotion. Little Jaden is a chip off the old block, uncommonly at ease before the cameras. Their real-life bond is an inestimable asset to the on-screen characters' relationship, although Conrad never really tests it with any conflict."
National Review Online has named the film #7 in its list of 'The Best Conservative Movies'. Linda Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity wrote, "this film provides the perfect antidote to Wall Street and other Hollywood diatribes depicting the world of finance as filled with nothing but greed."
- Academy Award for Best Actor (Will Smith, nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Will Smith, nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song ("A Father's Way," words and music by Seal, nominee)
- Black Reel Award for Best Film (nominee)
- Black Reel Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Will Smith, nominee)
- Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performer (Jaden Smith, nominee)
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture (winner)
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Will Smith, nominee)
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Jaden Smith, nominee)
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Thandie Newton, nominee)
- Screen Actors' Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role - Motion Picture (Will Smith, nominee)
- MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance (Will Smith, nominee)
- MTV Movie Award for Best Male Breakthrough Performance (Jaden Smith, winner)
- Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie: Breakout Male (Jaden Smith, winner)
- Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie: Chemistry (Jaden Smith and Will Smith, winner)
- Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor (Will Smith, nominee)
- BFCA Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor (Jaden Smith, nominee)
- BET Award for Best Actor (Will Smith, nominee)
- PFCS Award for Best Performance by Youth in a Leading or Supporting Role - Male (Jaden Smith, winner)
- Chicago Film Critics Association Award for best actor (Will Smith, nominee)
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Best Score (Andrea Guerra, nominee)
- David di Donatello Awards for Best Foreign Language Movie (Gabriele Muccino, nominee)
- Capri Award for Movie of The Year (winner)
- Zwecker, Bill (2003-07-17). "There’s a Way—and Maybe a Will—for Gardner Story". Chicago Sun-Times. p. Pg. 36.
- "Christopher Gardner unimpressed jihyg with Shakti". Newswire (HT Media Ltd.). 2006-12-14. pp. 1000089 words.
- "News briefs from around Tennessee". AP Newswire. 2006-12-15. pp. 788 words.
- Gandossy, Taylor (January 16, 1222). "From sleeping on the streets to Wall Street". CNN. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- "''The Pursuit of Happyness'' at TheNumbers.com". The-numbers.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- "The Pursuit of Happyness - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- "The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic (2006-12-15). "''San Francisco Chronicle'' review". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Dargis, Manohla (2006-12-15). "''New York Times'' review". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Rolling Stone review
- Lowry, Brian (2006-12-07). "''Variety'' review". Variety.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Boucher, Geoff (2011-01-26). "''Los Angeles Times'' review". Calendarlive.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- "''St. Petersburg Times'' review". Sptimes.com. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Miller, John (February 23, 2009). The Best Conservative Movies. National Review Online. Retrieved August 19, 2009
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