The next time I think I am doing something difficult, I will just remember what Christopher Gardner (Will Smith) went through before he made it big. It was exhausting to watch.

will smith

Based on a true story, The Pursuit of Happyness takes place in the early 1980s, when Chris was selling–or most often, attempting to sell–portable bone density scanners to doctors. He and his wife had spent their life savings buying a bunch of these machines, not realizing that doctors would consider them to be an unnecessary luxury.

Now his wife was pulling double shifts at a lousy job, his five-year-old son was stuck in a lousy daycare because they couldn’t afford anything better, and Chris was desperately trying to sell enough bone density scanners to satisfy the requirements of his contract and then get out of the business.

Then one day when Chris was walking down the street, he noticed a man who had just parked an expensive, flashy car. He asked the man what he did for a living. It turned out that the man was a stockbroker. Chris figured you had to go to college for that, but the man told him no, you just had to be good with numbers and good with people.

As it turned out, Chris was something of a mathematical genius. He manages to get a much-coveted internship at a brokerage firm despite having no background in the field, in part by showing one of the men on the selection committee how he could solve the Rubik’s Cube in what was probably record time. There were only a couple of hitches. One was that the internship was unpaid, and Chris was already just about broke.

The other was that his wife was tired of waiting for things to get better. Chris insisted that their son stay with him, and his wife didn’t put up much of a protest. I can’t understand how some people can leave their kids that easily, but maybe she realized that their son was better off with his father. Although Chris did tell her that she knew she couldn’t take care of him, the movie doesn’t really get into why not, though it was obvious that she didn’t really want him with her. I guess that’s reason enough to leave him with his father, who really did want him.

So Chris was now raising his son on his own, trying to sell the rest of his bone-density scanners, and trying to do an excellent job at his internship, since only one of the twenty interns got a job with the firm once the internship was completed. He had fewer hours in a day to do this than the other interns given his parental responsibilities. Furthermore, he and his son were actually homeless for awhile, so they had to line up at the shelter every evening in hopes of getting a room. If they weren’t there by five, they might be out of luck.

Will Smith does an excellent job as Chris. I could really empathize with the character. I felt such relief when he sold a bone-density scanner or something else went right for him. So often, the man could NOT catch a break. I guess one thing that Chris Gardner’s story teaches us though is that we do make our own luck, at least to a certain extent. He overcame numerous hardships to become extremely rich and successful.

pursuit of happiness poster

The Pursuit of Happyness is also very touching. Chris was an excellent father, and the scenes with his five-year-old son (Will Smith’s real-life son, Jaden Smith) would warm anyone’s heart. The father and son duo work well together. So many fathers in Chris’ situation would have just let the mother take his son in those circumstances; certainly things would have been easier if he hadn’t had to take care of his son as a single parent in addition to everything else. But Chris loved his son, he was determined to be a good father, and knew he was better off with him.

The only problem with this movie is that it seemed rather slow-moving at times. Watching it, I just wanted so badly for things to turn around for Chris, and I knew they would, but it seems to take a really long time for the movie to get to that point. Still, I got very caught up in the movie and found it very inspirational.


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