The Pursuit of Happyness

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The Pursuit of Happyness
Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGabriele Muccino
Produced by
Screenplay bySteven Conrad
Based onThe Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
Quincy Troupe
Starring
Narrated byWill Smith
Music byAndrea Guerra
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byHughes Winborne
Production
company
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 15, 2006 (2006-12-15)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[1]
Box office$307.1 million[1]

The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical drama film directed by Gabriele Muccino and starring Will Smith as Chris Gardner, a 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 2006 memoir of the same name written by Gardner with Quincy Troupe. It is based on Gardner's nearly one-year struggle being homeless.[2] The unusual spelling of the film's title comes from a mural that Gardner sees on the wall outside the daycare facility his son attends.

The film was released on December 15, 2006 by Columbia Pictures, and received moderately positive reviews, with most critics particularly praising Smith’s performance. The film was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor.[3]

Plot[edit]

In 1981, San Francisco salesman Chris Gardner 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. The scanners play a vital role in his life. While he is able to sell most of them, the time lag between the sales and his growing financial demands enrage his already alienated wife Linda, who works as a hotel maid. The financial instability increasingly erodes their marriage, in spite of them caring for Christopher Jr., their soon-to-be five-year-old son. Chris has difficulty selling the scanners, as they are much more expensive than common X-rays but produce only a slightly better picture. Because of this, he does not make enough money to make ends meet and Linda is forced to work double shifts.

He meets Jay Twistle, a manager for Dean Witter, to whom he has applied for a position as a stockbroker, and impresses him by solving a Rubik's Cube during a shared taxi ride.[4] After Jay leaves, Gardner lacks money to pay the fare and chooses to run instead, causing the driver to angrily chase him into a BART station. Gardner boards a train but loses one of his scanners in the process. The day before the interview, Gardner grudgingly agrees to paint his apartment so as to postpone being evicted due to his difficulty in paying the rent. While painting, Gardner is greeted by two policemen at his doorstep, who take him to the station, stating he has to pay for the numerous parking tickets he has accumulated. Gardner has to spend the night in jail until his check clears, complicating his schedule for his interview at Dean Witter the next morning. He arrives still wearing his shabby, paint splashed clothes. Despite his appearance, he impresses the interviewers and lands a position as one of twenty unpaid interns, competing for a single paid position as a stockbroker. This does not please Linda, who leaves for a job in New York. After Gardner bluntly says she is incapable of being a single mom, she agrees that Christopher Jr. will remain with his father. Gardner is further set back when his bank account is garnished by the IRS for unpaid income taxes, and he and Christopher are evicted. He ends up with only $21.33, resulting in them being homeless, and they are forced at one point to spend the night in a BART station restroom. Other days, he and Christopher spend nights at a homeless shelter, or riding BART. Later, Gardner finds the bone scanner that he lost in the BART station and, after repairing it, sells it to a physician, thus completing the sales of all his scanners and paying for a night in a hotel.

Gardner develops a number of ways to make telephone sales calls more efficiently, including reaching out to potential high-value customers, defying protocol. One sympathetic prospect who is a top-level pension fund manager even takes Chris and Christopher to a San Francisco 49ers game at Candlestick Park. Regardless of his challenges, he never reveals his lowly circumstances to his colleagues, even going so far as to lend one of his bosses, Martin Frohm, $5 for cab fare, a sum that he cannot afford. Gardner completes the stock broker license test faster than any of the other candidates. Concluding his six-month-internship, Gardner is called into a meeting with his managers. To break the ice, Gardner jokes that he is wearing a shirt (unlike the undershirt he wore to his interview) to mark his last day. Frohm smiles and says he should wear another one tomorrow as it will be his first day in the full-time position. Fighting back tears, Gardner shakes hands with them, then rushes to his son's daycare to embrace him. They walk down the street, joking with each other (and are passed by the real Chris Gardner, in a business suit). The epilogue reveals that Gardner went on to form his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film is based on the story of Chris Gardner's struggle with homelessness.

Development[edit]

Chris Gardner realized his story had Hollywood potential after an overwhelming national response to an interview he did with 20/20 in January 2002.[5] 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. Towards the end Chris Gardner has a brief uncredited cameo appearance before the credits.

Casting[edit]

Chris Gardner initially thought Smith, an actor best known for his performances in blockbuster films, was miscast to play him. However, he claimed his daughter Jacintha said, "If [Smith] can play Muhammad Ali, he can play you!", referring to Smith's role in the biopic Ali (2001).[6]

Music[edit]

Varèse Sarabande released a soundtrack album with the score composed by Andrea Guerra on January 9, 2007.

No.TitleLength
1."Opening"3:09
2."Being Stupid"1:39
3."Running"1:30
4."Trouble at Home"1:30
5."Rubiks Cube Taxi"1:53
6."Park Chase"2:29
7."Linda Leaves"4:02
8."Night at Police Station"1:36
9."Possibly"1:45
10."Where's My Shoe"4:20
11."To the Game/Touchdown"1:37
12."Locked Out"2:20
13."Dinosaurs"2:40
14."Homeless"1:55
15."Happyness"3:50
16."Welcome Chris"3:45
Total length:40:00

Also in the film are brief portions of "Higher Ground" and "Jesus Children of America", both sung by Stevie Wonder, and "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain" by Mahalia Jackson and Doris Akers, sung by the Glide Ensemble.

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8]

Home media[edit]

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.[9] About 5,570,577 units have been sold, bringing in $90,582,602 in revenue.[10]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The film was received generally positively by critics, with Will Smith receiving widespread acclaim for his performance. Film review site Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 67% overall approval based on 176 reviews, with an average rating of 6.39/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Will Smith's heartfelt performance elevates The Pursuit of Happyness above mere melodrama."[11] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]

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."[13]

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."[14]

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."[15]

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."[16]

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."[17]

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."[18]

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."[19]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
BET Award Best Actor Nominated
Black Reel Award Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Jaden Smith Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
Best Young Performer Jaden Smith Nominated
Capri Award Movie of the Year Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
David di Donatello Award Best Foreign Film Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Will Smith Nominated
Best Original Song ("A Father's Way") Seal Nominated
MTV Movie Award Best Male Performance Will Smith Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Jaden Smith Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Motion Picture Won
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Will Smith Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Jaden Smith Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Thandie Newton Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best Score Andrea Guerra Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Young Actor Jaden Smith Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Will Smith Nominated
Teen Choice Award Choice Movie – Drama Won
Choice: Chemistry Will Smith Won
Jaden Smith Won
Choice: Breakout Male Won

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Pursuit of Happyness". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  2. ^ Pfeiffer, Antonia (2018). "The Pursuit of Happyness" - A Hollywood Interpretation Of How To Achieve The American Dream. p. 7.
  3. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (January 21, 2016). "Will Smith Says He Won't Attend Oscars". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  4. ^ "The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)". Chasing The Frog. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  5. ^ Zwecker, Bill (July 17, 2003). "There's a Way—and Maybe a Will—for Gardner Story". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 36.
  6. ^ "Smith's Real Life Role Model Unimpressed With His Stardom". Contactmusic.com. December 14, 2006. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  7. ^ The Associated Press State & Local Wire (December 15, 2006). "News briefs from around Tennessee". AP Newswire. pp. 788 words.
  8. ^ Gandossy, Taylor (January 16, 1222). "From sleeping on the streets to Wall Street". CNN. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "The Pursuit of Happyness at TheNumbers.com". The-numbers.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  10. ^ "The Pursuit of Happyness – DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  11. ^ "The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  12. ^ https://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-pursuit-of-happyness
  13. ^ Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic (December 15, 2006). "San Francisco Chronicle review". Sfgate.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  14. ^ Dargis, Manohla (December 15, 2006). "New York Times review". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  15. ^ Rolling Stone review
  16. ^ Lowry, Brian (December 7, 2006). "Variety review". Variety.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  17. ^ Boucher, Geoff (January 26, 2011). "Los Angeles Times review". Calendarlive.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  18. ^ "St. Petersburg Times review". Sptimes.com. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  19. ^ Miller, John (February 23, 2009). "The Best Conservative Movies". National Review Online. Archived from the original on October 22, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2009.

External links[edit]