Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dis-happyness

Warning this post contains spoilers about the film The Pursuit of Happyness.

My wife, Kimberly, gets very stressed out during movies where characters are in positions were they lack security. So, needless to say, The Pursuit of Happyness was a nerve racking film for her.

Yet, during the film, I was bothered thematically with the message. For much of the film, it seemed to address various ideas about Thomas Jefferson's clause in the declaration that stated that we had the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

And in the film, Will Smith, playing the part of Chris Gardner, struggles with these concepts as he and his son deal with homelessness and poverty while Gardner struggles to get a job as a stock broker for Dean Witter Reynolds (now Morgan Stanley).

Yet, the film, to me ended up being just a depressing version of Legally Blonde. Despite the fact that the film deals with questions of whether true happiness is ever attainable, the final answer to the question is that if we work hard enough, we can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and become rich, which surely must equate with happiness.

While the interaction between Smith and his real life son in the film, are the most touching moments of the film, it's hardly much different plot wise than Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoons) devotion to fashion and image while struggling to make it as a lawyer in Legally Blonde.

Hard work does pay off, and financial security is surely preferable to poverty, and achieving for the sake of family is beyond honorable, but what if Chris Gardner wasn't impressively smart? or what if he still hadn't made the cut with Dean Witter to get the job? And how is the loss of his wife reconcilable?

To me this film left me incredibly unsatisfied. I think I would appreciated if it had just told the story of Chris Garnder's life or that time period in Chris Garnder's life, without trying to attach his story to something bigger and grander, especially something as obtuse as happiness.

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13 comments:

b13 said...

I felt that the "happyness" came from the fact that he was able to provide for his son and in esscence become better than his own father. I, however, do not look as deeply into films for meaning, as you do ;)

Neo said...

hey, thnks for the comment on my blog..

i agree with ur reviwew...movie stops to inspire the moment u link to to a grand concept of happiness....

but cut that thing aside and its a very gud movie

keep in touch..and i wud like to knw how did u get to my post :)

Peter said...

Hi RC, thanks for the visit... can't comment on the film as I haven't seen it.

Marina said...

My thoughts mirrored yours exactly. It wasn't only unsatisfying but I was really troubled by the message that money can solve all problems. Not exactly a great message if you ask me.

Katherine said...

Oh, interesting take. I haven't seen this movie yet but it got so much hype. I think I'd rather read a book about Chris Gardener's life, if there is one.

Scott Roche said...

It is adapted from his autobiagraphy, so the problem could be linked either to that or to our cultures ineviable linking of money and happiness. Thanks for the review RC!

Bennett said...

They should make a movie with the same title but make it about the life of Mother Teresa or Rich Mullins or something.

By the way, there is a movie you have got to see. Perhaps you sell it in your store. Facing the Giants. There's no way you could regret watching this movie.

Jon said...

I completely agree. I'm thrilled he worked hard and reached a new place in life, but the movie seemed to just focus on the idea that a lot of money = happiness. The relationship with his son seemed to grow, but not much else ...

jasdye said...

chris,

why yes, there is not only a book about chris gardner but also by chris gardner. it's also called The Pursuit of Happyness.

having only listened to parts of the book on audio (we were sending our students out to meet him and wanted to prep them just last week), i can't say too much else, besides the fact that sounds disheartening.

in fact, i decided not to watch Facing the Giants for much the same reason, this confusion of our desires with what is best for us, what is good, healthy, meaningful and actually can give us most joy.

but, then again, i've seen neither movie.

General125 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
General125 said...

RC, reviews like this is one reason why I know we get along.

Ryan said...

I was also unsatisfied with this film. I felt it was incredibly slow, and the overarching message, which you brought out, seemed to me to be a bit off. The comparison to "Legally Blonde" is an interesting one, and fairly accurate I think.

My brother told me after he watched it, that he did a little research into the real Chris Gardner. His internship (in real life) at Dean Witter apparently came with a salary, and he wasnever actually homeless.

The movie may have been better if it didn't try so hard to tug at heart strings and just told an authentic version of the story.

-R

SET said...

I enjoyed the film, but have to agree with you in terms of the ending not serving the purpose of the whole anxiety the movie created.

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