You’ve probably heard of Chris Gardner by now—homeless man turned-stockbroker-turned brokerage firm founder. (We wrote about Gardner in our July 2006 issue.) If you haven’t, the largely true tale starring Will Smith and his real-life son, Jaden, opened to solid reviews on Dec. 15.
Boiler Room or Wall Street this film is not. There are very few scenes depicting frenzied brokers and traders screaming about stock prices; The Pursuit of Happyness is, instead, a father-son tale of survival and perseverance.
The movie begins with Gardner’s downward spiral into homelessness. He’s a self-employed salesman in San Francisco, but sales slump, his debts mount, his wife (played by Thandie Newton of Crash) leaves and Gardner ends up in dire straits. His love for his son is the only thing that keeps him going—his own father left when he was a child—and after a chance meeting with a Ferrari-driving stockbroker, Gardner sets his sights on Wall Street.
Of course, it’s Will Smith, so if he doesn’t save the world, we at least can be assured a happy ending. So, take the kids. Pursuit is inspirational, tear-jerking Hollywood holiday fare, but it pulls it off without getting too sappy. Nine thumbs up.