The Pursuit of Happyness (Muccino, 2006)

We have very few true movies stars today, actors that can overcome generic scripts and direction to create a dynamic impression on the viewers hearts and minds. In my mind, the short list includes Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, maybe Julia Roberts still, and Will Smith. In The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith plays Chris Gardner, a hardworking father and husband who’s life and livelihood go through a multitude of harsh realities checks, some because of bad luck, bad timing, or a lack of opportunity. Chris, a beacon of hope and perseverance, never gives up, and the film is weakest when this theme is pounded into the ground during the second act. Thankfully, Will Smith radiates an earnestness rarely seen in Hollywood today. Casting Smith’s real life son Jaden in the movie is a brilliant coup, not only allowing Smith to gain a personal connection with the material but inciting countless interactions between father and son which feel honest, heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful. While not a transcendent piece, The Pursuit of Happyness is devoted to many ideas concerning luck, hope, and hard work, and how closely all three are tied together. Because of these messages, and Smith’s enthralling presence, the film offers gratitude for a man determined to raise his son the right way, his lessons born out of care and experience, lessons we can all learn from in some form or fashion.

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