Friday, February 23, 2007

American Dream personified

Film: The Pursuit of Happyness
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton

Autobiographical / inspirational films have a problem. They tend to over-simplify the narrative in order to bring home the message. Based on the autobiography of Chris Gardner, this film too fails to escape from this. This, however, is not always a flaw, especially when the film dispenses with all the frills and concentrates on the story at hand.
So, we have a real-life father-son duo Will Smith and Jaden Smith playing the real-life father-son duo Chris Gardner and his son Christopher, struggling to meet their end, and yet pursuing for big things, that allusive things called happiness. That Chris Gardner became a successful stock broker is not important. What is important is how he struggles, without running short of optimism even for a single second when the whole world seemed to be conspiring against him.
The surprise of the film is Will Smith in a mature role and how he handles it with aplomb, and the breezy way he narrates his story, without letting the narrative falter even for a second. If you think he deserved an Oscar nomination for all the running he did (half the screen time you see him literally running around the streets), look at the scene when he and Christopher spend the night at the railway station washroom, and the scene when he finally gets the job with the brokerage firm. Astonishing! Even more astonishing is the chemistry between the father and son, and how Jaden Smith matches steps with his father. Heartening!
The American Declaration of Independence mentions three unalienable rights, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, and anyone with the will to achieve it is free to do so. This is the American Dream, and the film is proof that it's possible. And it’s inspiring without making any bones about it.
A word about the wrongly spelt word 'happiness' in the title. This is how Chris Gardner saw the spelling at his son’s daycare and had to struggle with the people get the spelling right. This, in short, explains the man who would not let circumstances define him.
Inspiring and moving. Don’t miss it.

Rating **** out of *****

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