The Pursuit of HappYness movie review
Another film which has just hit theatres in India although it was released world-wide in December last year is Pursuit of HappYness. It got an Oscar nomination for Will Smith and so I decided to see it. Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, an intelligent but impoverished salesman who wants to move up in life. Apparently, this is a true story of a poor and homeless single father, Christopher Gardner, who struggles to become a successful stock broker although he has not studied beyond high school.
True story? You got to be joking. Well, the rags to riches part is believable but the incidents that were shown (to dramatise the movie I guess) were totally unrealistic. Some were plain silly. Like Chris arriving a few minutes before the crucial interview without a proper shirt and tie because he is arrested by the police the previous evening. Or when he is hit by a car and arrives at work without a shoe. Or the time he runs after a mad tramp who walks away with the ‘scanner’ that he is selling. Another time Chris leaves his precious scanner with a hippie and then chases her across town when she runs away with it! All these incidents were supposedly part of his ‘struggle’ to improve his lot in life. After some time these incidents start to get boring. They seem contrived and trivial. And then the most unbelievable part – Chris is hired by a leading stock broker firm because he can solve the Rubik cube puzzle! It just didn’t jell. It was soooo Bollywood! And these guys are telling us that this is a true story??
And the way they showed this Chris guy hunting for a place to sleep dragging along his little boy, it was so full of pathos that it was irritating. They milked the ‘devoted’ father angle to the absolute limit. Again, very Bollywood, but at least when Bollywood makes drama it makes real good drama. Bollywood can make you cry. This one didn’t come anywhere near it. I think this Italian director, Gabriele Muccino, needs to see some Bollywood movies.
The wife’s character was totally unrealistic. She leaves him simply because he is not earning enough money. Well if she was really that horrible a person, the kind of woman who would leave a caring, loving husband and father who is struggling to improve his lot in life, then it should be shown that way. But she was shown in a good light…I didn’t quite get that part.
And when I came home I decided to check what the Wiki had to say and bingo! It all came together. This is NOT a true story. The only thing that is true is that this guy Christopher was poor and he was single and he had a small kid. And he struggled to make it to the top…the actual incidents were invented. This is what the Wiki says about the differences between the film and actual events:
1) The wife is an amalgamation of Gardner’s two previous wives.
2) The Rubik’s cube incident never happened. Smith came up with that idea, because he has always been fascinated with Rubik’s cubes.
3) He spent 10 days in jail for not paying his parking tickets. (not just a night which got him late for the interview)
4) He sometimes spent the night underneath his desk when the shelters were full.
5) One of the reasons he was hired by the company inspite of not having a college education was because as part of the Reagan 1981 tax bill, the federal government initiated very lucrative tax incentives to corporations who employed a large minority workforce. So between 1981 and 1983 many companies, exclusively hired minorities in order to qualify for these tax incentives.
And its not just the unrealistic parts, I think that the director could have done a better job overall. The movie dragged and the incidents which showed the hardships that Chris went through were repetitive. And too many looong conversations between father and five year old son. I guess the director was trying hard to add pathos to the movie…but he didn’t succeed very well. Sure, Will Smith did a fairly good job playing the homeless father, but well, he didn’t deserve the Oscar for it. And another mistake of the director is to call this movie a true story when most of it isn’t.