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Review: How to Achieve Success and Stay a Good Father - The Way of Chris Gardner

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1980. There are posters across San Francisco with brightly smiling young Robert De Niro, but this is not the case of importance for the main character. Chris Gardner (Will Smith), a victim of Reaganomics, has invested all his savings in bone-density scanners – devices that are useless and not required by any hospital, and now he needs to carry them around the city hospitals all day. At home, only his wife’s reproaches (Thandie Newton) and silent resentment in the eyes of his five-year-old son (Jaden Smith), who dreams of a basketball ball, are waiting for Chris. Once having met a classmate on Ferrari and recognizing that the car was bought on the money earned in the brokerage firm, Gardner recalls that he was good at math at school and decides to learn to be a broker. Nevertheless, his wife does not believe in him, the homeowner asks to pay the rent and, in the end, the lack of money makes Chris walk around the city with scanners at his neck and a son under his arm (Smith, & Muccino, 2006). This story may seem usual and banal, especially for the Hollywood movie industry, but it has something gripping in comparison with other similar pictures – the truth.

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The situation discussed above was a real story. The Pursuit of Happyness is a biopic about Chris Gardner, who initially described his way to success and happiness in an autobiographic book. Chris Gardner has been a multimillionaire for already 20 years, but he started from nothing. Steven Conrad with the help of Gardner himself turned the book into a fascinating script for the movie. In his turn, debuting in Hollywood Italian director Gabriele Muccino turned the script into a movie (Niemiec, 2007). Will Smith playing the main character and Jaden Smith (the real son of the actor) playing small Christopher created one of the most appealing and touching couples that can be seen in the movies of this genre. Probably, this is because they actually are a father and son. Therefore, they both did not have to imitate care, the connection between the father and the son and mutual love. As a matter of fact, this work is probably the most valuable movie of Will Smith’s “collection”. This is his genre. An instructive, truthful and moving to tears picture that simply calls for action.

This movie is so appealing not only because of the whole touching and dramatic storyline but also of the details and particular scenes. What stands out the most is that every day Chris brings his son to a kindergarten, where the word “happiness” in the title is written with a touching grammatical mistake (“happyness”). Such a mistake is consistent with the general essence of the storyline being slightly Christmas-like (Niemiec, 2007). In other words, happiness appears to be a Christmas present for good behavior during a year. A mistake serves here as the reminder that one can change everything he/she wants on the way to success or the accomplishment of dreams. Such a small word, but how much sense the author has put into it.

It has already been mentioned that the movie is based on the autobiography of the real Chris Gardner. Interestingly, the real Chris Gardner appears for a second in the final (French, 2007). The director intentionally gave a real Chris a part to make the picture more descriptive and indicative. According to Gabriel Muccino’s point of view, it is better if the viewer does not know in advance who the prototype of the protagonist is. This is because Gardner is primarily known for his achievements in the financial sector and the audience may recognize him and predict the ending of the scene (French, 2007). Additionally, the movie refers to the pursuit of happiness which is elusive and not equivalent to the pursuit of purely career prosperity (Niemiec, 2007). The experience of a brief stay in the shelter for homeless, as well as knowledge of other unpleasant situations, really had a big impact on real Chris Gardner’s views (Gardner, 2009). Moreover, perhaps this experience even helped him in the future professional activity.

Nevertheless, one way or another the leitmotif of the work seems to be the line tied to the relationship between adult Chris and small Christopher, not the career and success (Gardner, 2009). That is why, the story begins with a soulful voice-over monologue, when Gardner remembers that the first time he saw his parents was only in 28 years and gives a mental promise that his child will always know his father, no matter what happens. The most touching and funniest moments depict small joys and the inevitable disappointments that accompany Gardner’s communication with his son Chris, forced deprivation has been endured, but deep down the main character is almost sorry for that.

Gabriele Muccino cleverly avoids common clichés of a typical biopic. Additionally, he highlights the spirit of that time, when not failing on the first steps towards the stockbroker position is a task almost impossible (French, 2007). The director works it with the virtuosity of a market trader selling a melon to a passerby. Using this metaphor further, you continue to listen to the trader not because you believe, and certainly not because you need a melon – you are just incredibly interested in what he/she is driving at, what another catchy joke he/she will tell, and at what point he/she will stop (French, 2007). Muccino’s shamelessness compares favorably with the older and more sincere bourgeois sentimentalists (for example, Stephen Spielberg in the movie Terminal). The audience is not tired of watching the pure truth, on the contrary, curiously waits for the next form it will take. Chris comes to an interview with financial bosses not simply not wearing the tie, but also in a dirty suit (he has painted the wall against the debt of rent and has had no other suit to change). In the other scene, a market tycoon borrows the last five dollars from Chris’s wallet – and here, the audience is guaranteed to be kept in suspense till the end of the movie with a thought in mind: Will he return five dollars in the final or not? It all appears to be incredibly exciting, and a problem of the shamelessness of Chris’s appearance in the official meeting becomes as insignificant as for what the scanner is needed (Niemiec, 2007). The answer, of course, exists in nature, but something tells that it is not a recipe for happiness and even more for “happyness”.

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Telling the truth, all the most gentle, pathetic and impossible were added to the movie by screenwriters and the director. In real life, little Christopher was a teenager, Chris was paid a small scholarship for his internship, and, most importantly, he never knew how to solve the Rubik’s Cube – in the picture, it is one the most impressive details, proving that Chris is a unique person (Gardner, 2009). In fact, Gardner courageously allowed to varnish his life in order to make it more American dream-like but sticking to the truth on the screen.

To sum up, the movie shows America where the residents do not have private cars. They stand in line for social benefits and a cot in a city shelter and cry every Sunday at the church hoping for manna from heaven. Nevertheless, the main character of the movie frankly smiles at the chiefs and starts communication. Of course, there are moments in this story seeming like a fairy tale, although it is said that the picture is based on real events. However, probably, everyone in life faced a situation of great luck or when a good person turned to be nearby. The most important things that have led to the success of the protagonist are his own will and the little boy who is the main motivation. The story is slightly banal, exaggerated, and American dream-like. However, tiny details make it touching and truthful.

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