December 20, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
After you’ve seen THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes. But until then, here is a non-spoiler review.
Story of a smart man, lacking in post-high school education, who is trying to support a family in San Francisco in 1981. We know that he’s smart, no joke, because he can complete a Rubik’s Cube. Will Smith is believable as a guy so charming that you forget that he’s trying to sell you something or that he’s appeared at a job interview in a wife-beater and white paint streaks in his hair. His son is played by his real son and try as I might, I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the kid’s performance. As Howard Stern sidekick, Artie Lange said, “how is that kid gonna pretend he’s poor?” But he somehow does.
Thandie Newton, who is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, appears here both ugly and bitchy, a rare double-feat for her. She has the thankless role of the wife who is unsatisfied with her husband’s job prospects. We never get a chance to see them happy together.
But the story is about father and son. Mishap after accident after misunderstanding happens to Smith as he tries to find a way to become a stockbroker. Some of these mishaps, especially one involving parking tickets are so ridiculous that they brought me out of the movie. I know that it’s based on a true story, but I’d love to hear how much of what happened to Chris Gardner as played by Mr. Smith really happened to Chris Gardner as lived by Mr. Gardner.
Gardner politely gets himself invited to a luxury box at a Niners game, talks his way into the Pacific Bell headquarters, uses his imagination to make sleeping in a BART restroom seem like a game and not a new family low.
One thing I will say is that I looked hard for San Francisco anachronisms and couldn’t find any, save the jumbotron at Candlestick. They even had a taxicab ad for PSA Airlines.
The entity that comes off looking the best, besides Mr. Gardner, is Glide Memorial Church, and Rev. Cecil, a Bay Area treasure even has his own style of acting chops. It’s a Hollywood story about not giving up. Will Smith is a Hollywood star who never seems to give up, ergo, relatively touching, but way too manipulative.
There is one scene in a boardroom that almost had me in tears. Almost.
2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Actor for Will Smith