hi five: pursuit of happyness

april ’07 update:

DVD now available.

update: check out this san francisco gate article (thanks hakeem) about chris gardner’s life and links to film what the bleep do we know

last saturday, we ventured out to see will smith’s latest biopic “the pursuit of happyness” based on a time in the life of chris gardner of garder rich, llc. the film follows the life of chris gardner for 7-9 months as he struggles as an office-to-office salesman and (eventually) single father to becoming a stockbroker. the heartiest parts of the story are seeing gardner’s unyielding, yet difficult commitment to staying with his son and being a good parent despite potentially crushing circumstances. i expected the film to tap into my weepy, emotional side much more than it did. here are the possible five reasons why i was not moved to gut wrenching tears throughout the film:

  1. the underlying theme of the film is that what we can be, do , and accomplish needs not be dicatated by our present circumstances, where we were born or descended, or other past experiences beyond our control. i thought the fact that we learn very little abour chris gardner’s past was a deliberate testament to this assertion…which is just fine with me. but, i would have liked to have more of a context for chris gardner’s life and eccentricities.
  2. this lack of a presented past left me with many ‘why?’s. like, “why didn’t/ wasn’t chris able to go to college?” “why didn’t chris or his wife/girlfriend have any family?” “why didn’t chris appear to know anyone besides the guy who owed him $15?” i suppose the literature lover in me thinks having answers to questions like these would have made chris a rounder character.
  3. thandie newton played the gardner’s wife/girlfriend. i hate to be so blunt, but thandie newton did a very poor job of portraying the immensely frustrated and economically poor laundry worker. though i don’t think she was meant to come off as a drug abuser, all of the neck rolling, cigrarette-smoking, and poorly contextualized emasculating (read: OVERACTING!) made her come off like a pedestrian crackhead.

  4. i thought the film was uniquely illustrative of the possible mechanations of capitalism on the life of the working class. the reality is, that the modern world is not one in which people are valued because of their character or abilities. no, our worth is measured in how much we can cause to be produced and/or consumed within an hour. this was just as true about chris gardner’s life when he was pushing bone density scanners door-to-door as when he was pushing retirement plans for dean witter. instead of feeling glad when chris was chosen for the job after the internship, i had a small, but deep disappointed that even in the comfort of the fairy tale that is cinema, i was being coerced into appreciating and rooting for the devaluation of human life and potential.

     

  5. the falling action and resolution (vocab words…my students would be proud!) left much to be desired for me. i’m not sure whether or not i just expected to learn that chris gardner possessed something more than tenacity; that this made clear the message of creating your reality by sheer will and desire from the film what the bleep do we know that will smith cites in this hiphopdx interview – or just makes me sad for those who do possess extraordinary talents or abilities, but will never be at the right place and right time to turn seredipitious opportunities into transformational life experiences like chris did.

oh, and will smith’s son jaden did a commendable job. i hope my list didn’t
sound too negative because the film did have its heartening and inspirational moments. but, if i had to do it over again, i would wait for it to come on television. upon my sister’s suggestion though, i think i will check out chris gardner’s book (pictured at top) of the same name to get some closure.

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~ by Anayah on December 23, 2006.

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