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PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is struggling to make ends meet as a salesman of clunky and expensive bone density measuring machines, with a wife Linda (Thandie Newton) and 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith). His marriage crumbles under the strain, just as Gardner lands one of 20 internships at a prestigious stock brokerage firm; but he is unpaid. With Linda gone and Chris and Christopher evicted from their San Francisco apartment, they endure many hardships, sleeping in public toilets and shelters, while Chris tries to finish his internship in the hope that he might be the one intern hired by the firm after the internship ends, so he can build a better life for he and his son.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Happyness with a y is indeed a spelling mistake - but it's intentional, and it represents the word as misspelt on the wall of a day care centre in San Francisco, where the 5 year old Christopher (Jaden Smith) spends much of his time. But the word has deeper significance for the youngster's father Chris (Will Smith), who is struck by the passage about the right of Americans to pursue happiness, as enshrined in the Constitution. This is what the film is about: the American dream, and how a father pursues this dream in the face of severe difficulties. The father/son relationship gives this fact-inspired story its emotional wallop, and the father & son acting partnership of Will Smith and his son Jaden works beautifully.

It's a surprise to see Thandie Newton is a rather unsympathetic role, but she does it superbly, and all supporting cast play crucial roles with great success. Directed by talented young Gabriele Muccino, the film benefits from his outsider's observations, and he is far too smart a filmmaker to let schmaltz creep into the tone. All the same, we feel deeply for Chris, who is a dedicated father (but thankfully not an overstated caricature) facing the sort of obstacles - large and small - that when strung together seem like fate slamming one door just as another one shuts in your face. His survival and his achievement are never treated with the swaggering triumphalism that would dilute the film, but we do feel his relief and his elation.

The real Chris Gardner went on to start his own brokerage and later sold it in a multi million deal. He has also written a book about his days in the street, also titled The Pursuit of Happyness.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, THE (M)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta, Kurt Fuller, Takayo Fischer

PRODUCER: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, James Lassiter, Will Smith, Steve Tisch, Teddy Zee

DIRECTOR: Gabriele Muccino

SCRIPT: Steven Conrad (inspired by a true story)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael

EDITOR: Hughes Winborne

MUSIC: Andrea Guerra

PRODUCTION DESIGN: J. Michael Riva

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 11, 2007







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