Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

This part of my life is called Bored Silly

By Edward Copeland
This is an Oscar-nomination worthy performance? Don't get me wrong — Will Smith is fine in The Pursuit of Happyness, but there is absolutely nothing special about his performance and even less that's extraordinary about this sappy movie itself.


For those out there who haven't seen it, I took this post's title from the cloying voiceover that the screenplay inflicts on Smith where he has to place a label on each subsection of his life. He could have saved a lot of time and trouble if he'd just said at the beginning, "This part of my life is called Formula" because even though The Pursuit of Happyness purports to be based on a true story, it unfolds like dozens of movies you're likely to have seen before.

Smith plays Chris Gardner, a struggling husband and father in San Francisco in 1981 trying to unload some medical equipment he signed on to in order to keep his wife (Thandie Newton) and son (Smith's real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) with a roof over their head and food in their bellies.

Gardner also has some innate mathematical abilities, so he convinces a Dean Witter executive (by way of solving a Rubik's Cube of all things) to give him a shot at an internship that offers a slim chance at an actual job at its conclusion. Everyone who doesn't see how this film is going to end raise their hands. I didn't think so.

The story should inspire all of us drifting out there, unable to reach our dreams, but Steve Conrad's script and Gabriele Muccino's direction are so by-the-numbers, all it inspires is impatience for the end.

On the plus side, Jaden Smith has some real charm — but cute kids in movies are a half-dollar a dozen at least, so he's not enough to make the movie worth a recommendation.

Newton, an actress I've admired for a long time, is saddled with such a completely unsympathetic role that I'm really curious about what Gardner's ex-wife's side of the story really is. I think any reasonable person struggling to make ends meet would find some of Gardner's mistakes frustrating, but the movie plays her more as a shrew and once she leaves the picture, we never learn what happened to her again. She goes from concerned mother to a ghost in a matter of screen seconds.

The film also gets hampered by a syrupy score by Andrea Guerra and lots of musical montages designed to tug at your heartstrings but that instead made me think that I'd just heard the worst cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that I'm ever likely to hear.

Smith's best actor nomination for Ali was one of merit. His nomination here is generous, to say the least.


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