With Pursuit of Happyness, Smith takes on a truly challenging role and shines once again; he is, hands down, the best thing about the movie. Starring alongside his adorable 8-year-old son, Jaden, he turns in a raw, heartbreaking performance as a man who struggles to give his child the quality life that escaped him—surmounting a lack of education, stubborn naysayers and homelessness to become a rags-to-riches phenomenon.
But, as we know, very few homeless people will go on to become Chris Gardner, the man whose struggles in the early ‘80s inspired the movie. The Pursuit of Happyness, otherwise known as the arch-rival of Microsoft’s spell check, ultimately cracks under the weight of its hefty ambitions by never realizing when enough is enough.
In the story, Gardner (Smith) is a salesman with an ample supply of bone density scanners collected during an ill-conceived investment plan that has yet to pay off. His girlfriend, Linda (Thandie Newton), is fed up with having to work double shifts while he strolls around town holding these strange devices, only to return by nightfall with a skinny wallet. They have a son together (Jaden) who spends a lot of time in day care watching TV reruns. Point blank, they are going nowhere fast.
When money woes are pushed to the breaking point, Linda decides it’s time to go. Are we really supposed to believe that she would just abandon her son, who she seems to care about, and leave him in the hands of someone she deems a loser? There is absolutely nothing in the film to suggest that she is mentally unstable or would disappear without her child—except that it sets up a convenient launching pad to paint Chris as a victim.
It’s also hard to...