Saturday 3 October 2015

Review: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

I’ve had a real hankering for feel-good movies recently whilst I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps, so when I spotted The Pursuit of Happyness in our draft list I tracked it down without giving it another thought. I remembered that Will Smith was in it, and I assumed with a title like that, it was bound to make me feel fuzzy inside. Perhaps I was expecting something more like Hector and the Search for Happiness…


The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the real life story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith) who invested heavily in a large supply of Bone Density Scanning machines. Unfortunately he’s had great difficulty in selling them, as they are only marginally better than existing equipment, at double the price. As Chris and his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) spiral into debt, tensions rise and Linda leaves, although Chris demands that their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) stays with him.

This is one of those films where just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, they do. Then they get even worse than that. It might just be the most depressing film I’ve ever seen. The scene in the subway bathroom broke my heart into a million pieces, and it’s without a doubt the best performance I’ve ever seen from Will Smith.  I cried the first time I saw that scene, it was just so heartbreaking.  I was just screaming at the screen for life to give him a break and let him succeed.  The fact that its based on a true story, just made it so much more emotional and it stuck with me for months after I first watched it.  I did however do some googling and Chris Gardner is extremely successful now as a motivational speaker!


Despite the gloom, it did make me laugh several times. If you’ve seen it, do you remember the scene in the elevator at the Stockbroker’s after Chris takes the intern exam? He tells a colleague how much he struggled with the essay question on the back of the exam, and the intern panics and runs back to the exam room. I still can’t work out if Chris was teasing and the essay never existed! I assumed it did exist, it just proved that Chris was so far ahead of everyone else he did it all and still finished early....

One thing I wanted to know was why 'happyness' was spelled the way it was. I thought the answer was simply because of the graffiti on the wall that featured quite heavily throughout the film, but there's a much deeper explanation to do with an essay written in 1776 that I just can't wrap my head around right now!  I assumed it was because of the graffiti as well, I might have to have a look into this further....


The Pursuit of Happyness is one of those rare films that I loved, but would never want to watch again. Maybe if I was in the right kind of mood, but I don’t think I would call this a ‘feel-good film’. That’s not a criticism by any means!  I watched this for the second time a few weeks ago, the first time I watched it was when it was released, it took me that long to forget how heartbreaking it was.  Once I started it again, I quickly remembered why I didn't watch it again!!


  1. Great job, ladies! I agree there are many heart-breaking moments in this film, but I find the payoff at the end so worth all the agony as Smith and the film as a whole plays it beautifully. For me, it's enough to make it a feel-good film. By the way, I'd always assumed the spelling of the title was because of the graffiti. You have me curious.

    1. Okay, I tried to look into this a little more when I was more awake, and this is what I found!
      "The title is intentionally misspelled, as it also appears as graffiti in a scene in the film. The misspelled phrase is actually taken from an essay written in 1776 that argued that whites and blacks were created equal. The essay, which was written by Lemuel Haynes, a biracial man living in New England during the Revolution, quoted Thomas Jefferson's well-known sentence from the United States Declaration of Independence, but spelled the last word of the sentence with a y. The sentence, as it appears in Lemuel's essay, is as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-Evident, that all men are created Equal, that they are Endowed By their Creator with Ceartain [sic] unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happyness."
      - Allie