Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Sweetie, you wouldn't say that if you knew how much we owe to my chanting, darling. Lots of things in this house, this HOUSE wouldn't be here, darling. I chanted for this gorgeous house. Chanted to be successful and believe in myself... [aside] Please, let me make some more money so I can buy Saffron some more books and a car... ting, ting, ting... [to Saffy] In Buddhist, obviously, darling, when I do it properly.THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is an astounding movie. It's being sold as this emotional tearjerker about a solid-gold dad who lifts himself and his cute little kid out of poverty through sheer hard-work and endurance. It's a real-life American Dream. We know the dad is a good guy because he's being played by Will Smith, whose whole public persona is of a good guy and solid father. And we know the guy is smart because he can solve a Rubik's cube. And hey, his kid really is very sweet. We see this guy suffer eviction, the IRS jacking his savings and even homelessness, but he makes it in the end. Excellent.

The subversive part is this: the character Chris Gardner surely wants to be a good father and put his family on a solid financial footing. But he also wants a fast car painted pillar-box red. In fact, the entire motivating force of the movie is summed up in a quick scene where Gardner sees a guy pull up to a skyscraper in a sweet convertible. He asks him what he does for a living, and decides that that's what he's going to do. Because, in this movie, The Pursuit of Happyness is actually The Pursuit of Cash. Pure and simple. Dress it up with cute kids and gritty cinematography all you want: the guy wants to be rich.

Ain't nothing wrong with that. I personally hope to be very rich all my life. But it's just funny to find that underneath the soft, cuddly, sweet, sentimental exterior of this movie (imagining dinosaurs in the train station: ye gods I nearly vomited) beats the cold, ruthless heart of a greedy capitalist bastard. The kind of guy who bilks a cab fare or pushes onto a bus in order or lies that he's in the neighbourhead or jumps the call list in order to get ahead.

Subversion aside, there are some other things to like. Will Smith does give a nuanced, quietly impressive performance, and his real-life son Jaden is highly impressive as his on-screen son. I also appreciate a script in which THE MAN isn't holding back the struggling worker. Gardener faces obstacles but they aren't the vicious injustices of an uncaring system.

Still, I can't honestly recommend a film that was at least half an hour too long, repetitive and nauseatingly sentimental in parts. I really don't need to see Will Smith running at break-neck speed across a road to get to get to a life-changing appointment so many times.....And don't even get me started on Thandie Newton's hysterical performance as Gardner's haggard wife. Poor direction or poor chocies on Newton's part? Who knows? And who cares? Because after an hour and a half I really didn't care any more.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is on release in the USA. It opens in Australia tomorrow and in Italy and the UK on the 12th. It opens in Germany and Israel on the 18th and in Japan on the 27th and France on the 31st. It opens in Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil and Spain on Feb 2nd and in Belgium, Estonia, Finland and Venezuala on the 9th. It opens in Hungary on the 15th, Sweden on the 23rd, Singapore on March 1st and Turkey on March 2nd.

1 comment:

  1. Once again you've hit it right on the money. I was also turned off by the sugary sweet cover of this story but I never thought to consider this as the pursuit of just cash but you're absolutely right.