The Pursuit of Happyness
Based on a real-life story, we meet Chris Gardner (Will Smith) in the early ’80s, where he’s having trouble making ends meet as a bone-density scanner salesman in the San Francisco Bay Area. He decides to apply for a competitive internship program for stock brokers and, soon after, his wife (Thandie Newton) gets tired of the grind and leaves husband and son (played seamlessly by Smith’s real-life kid, Jaden Smith) to fend for themselves. The six-month internship ends up being unpaid, and as a result father and son slide from apartment to hotel to homeless shelter as Gardner works to improve his and his son’s lot. The major strength of Pursuit of Happyness is the tight focus that’s placed on the immediate world of one individual, Smith’s Gardner. It’s just one man and his lonely journey to create something from nothing using only the talents with which he was born. There are a handful of annoying Hollywood bad habits to complain about—the early voiceover is so clunky and intrusive that it nearly kills everything (thankfully it gets phased out)—but in the end, the character of Smith’s Gardner is too strong to deny.