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The Pursuit of Happiness

June 27th, 2019   |   Updated on June 29th, 2022

Based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner. Gardner has invested heavily in a device known as a “bone density scanner”. He feels like he has it made selling these devices. However, they do not sell well as they are marginally better than x-ray at a much higher price.

As Gardner works to make ends meet, his wife leaves him and he loses his apartment. Forced to live out in the streets with his son, Gardner continues to sell bone density scanners while concurrently taking on an unpaid internship as a stockbroker, with slim chances for advancement to a paid position.

Before he can receive pay, he needs to outshine the competition through 6 months of training, and to sell his devices to stay afloat.

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Movie Reviews: “The Pursuit of Happiness

Movie Review: BBC

Based a on a true story, this tear-jerking tale of a single father’s struggle to raise his son in the extreme poverty of the Reagan era serves as a blatant Oscar showcase for Will Smith. He plays Chris Gardner, a freelance salesman who stays one step ahead of the bailiffs by flogging bone scanners to hospitals. Desperate to escape his breadline existence, Gardner wins an unpaid training scholarship with a stockbroking firm, plunging his family into even greater chaos.

Now, the real Chris Gardner went on to become a multi-millionaire, and since this film is based on his own rags-to-riches account, it’s no surprise that he comes across as a martyred saint throughout. Not so his wife (Thandie Newton), who departs in a fit of shrewishness within minutes, leaving Gardner in charge of their five-year-old (played by Smith’s real-life kid Jaden). Father and son thus get to do a bit of bonding as they trudge from one temporary accommodation to the next.

However, The Pursuit of Happyness is a little less cheesy than its Winfrey-eqsue roots suggest. In fact, it’s a deeply political movie, combining genuine sympathy for the homeless with a resolutely Conservative message: you too can become a millionaire, it whispers, if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Smith certainly puts the hours in, whether he’s ferrying his son to daycare, selling his medical gizmos or cramming for stockbroker exams. The poor fellow spends two thirds of the movie jogging up and down San Francisco, making the film exhausting.

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Movie Review: The Sydney Morning Therald

It’s still the most famous film about American poverty but then it’s not a huge genre, is it? There are a lot of rags-to-riches movies but very few rags-to-rags. Even Ford’s movie sweetened the bitterness of Steinbeck’s novel. The family fell apart in the novel, after reaching California. Ford offered a scintilla of hope, with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) going off to fight poverty wherever he found it.

American movies don’t generally have a lot to say about American poverty, in a structural sense. It’s a guilty secret, in which movies prolong the myth that everyone gets their shot. The dominant idea – that if you’re poor, it’s your own fault – is a hideous dead end for scriptwriters, but arguing that poverty is at least partly the result of policy will get you a public flogging on Fox News, the modern version of the town stocks.

The Guardian reported recently that there are 37 million Americans now living below the poverty line, 5 million more than when George W. Bush took office in 2000. That’s 12.7 per cent of the population, the highest percentage in the developed world. One quarter of all black families live below the poverty line; Hispanics, 22 per cent; whites, 8.6 per cent. It’s your own fault if you’re black or off-white, obviously.

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Movie Review: The Guardian

Will Smith’s new film is an old-fashioned Hollywood heartwarmer: a Horatio Alger-type tale based on the true story of US multi-millionaire Chris Gardner, who experienced hardship and homelessness before he found success. For all the film’s occasional cheesiness, it’s entertaining, good-natured and decently acted – and interesting in that it talks about the unglamorous subject of poverty.

This was a man who managed to grow very rich, that most politically incorrect of things, by founding his own stockbroking firm. For some, the fact that this is about poverty overcome and defeated will render the movie inauthentic or even mendacious. I wonder. Will Smith plays Gardner, a blue-collar guy who cares about standards: he complains about the misspelling of “happiness” on the mural near his son’s playschool. His wife (Thandie Newton) leaves him and he and his boy are in desperate straits. Then Gardner, with his smart head for figures, manages to get an unpaid internship at a top brokerage firm: fate has given him a kind of bridging loan between a grindingly poor present and a possible comfortable future. But as he studies, Gardner is thrown out of his apartment for non-payment of rent, and he and his boy have to spend the night at homeless hostels, and even in a subway men’s room.

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