Happyness is a one-man show

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am

Unfortunately, The Pursuit of Happyness is bogged down by the ego of Will Smith, whose overwhelming performance overshadows everything else, until there is not a single shred of genuine emotion left in the movie.

Based on a true story, the film revolves around Chris Gardner (Smith), who is portrayed as a truly great man. This opinion is based on the guts and determination he displays to achieve his goal of becoming a stockbroker.

Director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Steven Conrad apparently perceive this as a very noble goal. Why else would they spend almost two hours praising a man as if he had solved the global warming problem or created a cure for cancer?

Like all heroes on voyages of self-discovery, Gardner starts from scratch and fights against all odds. His wife (Thandie Newton) leaves him for a new life, his landlord evicts him and his child Christopher (played by Smith's beautiful son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) from their apartment and he has very little money left in the bank.

But after seeing a stockbroker in a fancy car one day, Gardner decides that is his calling: to become a stockbroker, even though he doesn't know what a stockbroker actually does.

His idea of greatness is driving a sports car, watching football in box seats or buying lunch for his bosses, who are all portrayed as corporate Santa Clauses.

To the average middle-class viewer, the story is an uplifting statement of Social Darwinism - as in evolution, the fittest will survive in society - that makes perfect sense in a capitalist and consumerist society. Work hard or you will end up sleeping in shelters, the film warns.

But to portray Gardner's success as a personal triumph is an indirect way of saying that poverty is a personal failure, which is untrue and unfair.

Smith no doubt put his all into his role, even growing a moustache for the film. But the harder he tries, the less appealing the film becomes.

The actor deserved his Oscar nomination - but at the expense of the movie, which gradually degenerates into a one-man show.

No wonder the movie title is spelled wrong. The filmmakers have no understanding of what true happiness is.