Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Pursuit of Happyness- Guest post by LUMS Undergraduate student Tania Rashid

Tania had written this as an academic piece for her Writing and Communications class at LUMS. I really liked it and thought it would be nice to have guest posts on the blog. I hope you enjoy Tania's piece, and I encourage other budding writers to submit their write-ups to be published as guest posts.
'The Pursuit of Happyness'


'The Pursuit of Happyness' is a biographical movie based on the life of the self-made millionaire: Christopher Gardner. The film, released in 2006, is actually based on a memoir written by Gardner, which depicts his life during the 1980s. In the movie, director Gabriele Muccino, through his use of imagery and symbolism, shows us some of the most widespread phenomenon's prevalent in the modern capitalist society. This essay focuses on analyzing three of the main themes found in the film: the struggle to stay afloat in a highly competitive society; the desire to achieve 'The American Dream' and the constant efforts made in order to grasp the true meaning of happiness.

The movie revolves around the fast-paced life of San Francisco. Throughout the film, people are shown struggling to fight time- moving hurriedly in order to get to their destinations. The constant beeping of horns symbolizes the urgency which surrounds the city at all times. Moreover, the amount of joblessness prevalent in this city can be measured from observing all those people who are showcasing their talents on roadsides. A number of musicians can be seen during the opening of the film, who's only pastime seems to be playing their instruments on the street to obtain some 'quick cash'. The setting for a ruthlessly competitive society can be seen from the very start of the film.

Christopher Gardner is one of the victims of this highly competitive capitalist society. He has not sold any 'bone density scanners' (which he does for a living) for a while and is extremely low on cash. So much so, that his apartment rent is a few months overdue. Similarly, his wife Linda has her own struggles to put up with. She has been pulling double shifts at a factory for the past four months in order to make ends meet. Later, she decides to abandon her family for a better job opportunity in New York. It should be noted that for a mother to desert her child is not an easy task, and the reason Linda does this is because she can no longer put up with the intense and cut-throat nature of her current job. Gardner meanwhile struggles hard to keep him and his son financially stable, but unfortunately ends up having to leave his apartment. After this, life seems to be very rocky for both father and son. Having no steady accommodation, they are often forced to spend nights in sleazy motels, homeless shelters and even subway toilets! Their struggle for survival seems bitterly tragic.

It should also be noted that when people are in desperate situations, ethics and morals generally cease to exist. The way Gardner pushes a few ladies away to get on a bus before them shows how self-interested a person can get in such times. Had he not done that, he would have had to sleep on the street, because the homeless shelter, where he is currently residing, is a stickler for punctuality. We may therefore, draw a link between the competitive society and individualistic goals which are pursued by the members of such a community.

Moving on, we realize that 'The American dream' plays a very significant role in this film. What this dream encompasses is different for everyone but most people portrayed in the movie have hopes to achieve their respective dreams. A crucial scene in the movie portrays to the viewers what this dream means to Garner. While passing by a stock brokerage firm, he spots a luxurious red car. Gardner falls in love with the entire environment surrounding that vehicle: the tall brokerage firm, the employees walking outside and the entire aura found around him. At that moment he desires to become a stock broker. Meanwhile, a serene music plays in the background epitomizing the desirable nature of this kind of life.

Another object which signifies Gardner's ambition is 'The Rubics Cube': which seems to represent the complex society in which he resides. The cube, whose solution is portrayed as an impossibility, proves to be a true enigma. However, Gardner finds a way to solve the box and this indicates the possibility of a positive event in the future. The scene in which he is solving the cube is highly charged and there is a lot of self-pressure on him to succeed. When he finally manages to accomplish the task, everyone around him seems impressed- even the taxi driver who is also attempting to solve one of these cubes. It appears as if every individual is engaged in trying to 'de-code' the mysteries of their society- but they do not all have the capability to manage this daunting task. Therefore, not everyone's 'American Dream' comes true.

Defining happiness has been one of the most important themes of this movie. Initially, Gardner assumes happiness to be associated with the acquisition of a certain kind of job. However, he constantly mentions the declaration of independence in which Thomas Jefferson speaks about the nature of happiness and that it is a feeling you are always trying to pursue, but whether you ever get to it is the perplexing question. The last scene of the movie establishes the true meaning of happiness for Gardner. He is offered a job which was very competitive and hard to bag. Tears of joy spring in his eyes and we see him in a state of total euphoria. His hard work has finally paid off and he feels valued and worthy. Once again, tranquil music surrounds the scene and Gardner says: 'This part of my life, this little part- is called happiness'. It is interesting to note that the word 'happiness' in the movie's title is intentionally misspelled: perhaps to indicate the lack of clarity in this word. Happiness is a nebulous term and holds different meanings for different people. Thus, why should it be spelt in the same monotonous way?

Like many biographical films, 'The Pursuit of Happyness' has a few discrepancies with the real story of Gardner. His son 'Chris Jr.' is portrayed by a 5 year old actor (Jaden Smith), whereas in reality the boy was just a toddler. However, when it comes to Will Smith's portrayal of Gardner, only praise comes to mind. According to The Rolling Stone magazine, "Will Smith is on the march toward Oscar... the role needs gravity, smarts, charm, humor and a soul that's not synthetic. Smith brings it. He's the real deal" (Travers).

Since the very beginning of the film, the audience is trying to figure out what happiness truly means. Towards the end, we see that Gardner has realized what it represents to him. His intense struggles and unwavering ambitions helped him reach his 'American Dream' and he was thus able to enjoy the fruits of his hard labour. From this movie, we need to learn that we ourselves are responsible for pursuing our happiness and that passion and devotion usually gets us there. The movie concludes at an emotionally charged moment and leaves the viewers overcome with a feeling of pure bliss: as if we were journeying with Gardner himself.


Work Cited

Travers, Peter. "Pursuit of Happyness."Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner, 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2010. <>.


1 comment:

  1. A comprehensive review of a fairly complicated movie, which encompasses all important yet intricate aspects of life that are shown in this movie. Bravo!


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