Movie Review of “The Pursuit of Happyness”; My “unHappyness” with too much revision in “true stories” + thoughts on Sin and true Happiness

Posted: February 29, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Movie Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Okay, before I get out my angst, I wish to first say that this movie is inspiring and touching. Will Smith gives one of the better performances of his career, although I still think his “Fresh Prince” days were golden. Son, Jaden Smith, comes through nicely in his acting debut and it was indeed touching to know that father and son were acting together. Imagine that it was very cool from both ends.

I respect the accomplishments of Chris Gardner (, whose life story inspired this flick. There is one big problem I do have, however, and this is the fact he allowed what I think to be a distortion on the facts of his life. You can find many listed on this link ( I am well aware that Hollywood always seems to revise and embellish “true stories” to make them more touching and inspiring. There is a fine line, however, that once crossed no longer maintains teh credibility of the “true” story. I think this film crossed that line. Again, I respect and admire the success of Chris Gardner, but was deeply moved by the film’s portrayals of certain things that I later came to realize were false. I felt duped and wished Chris Gardner would have demanded that certain facts be retained in the screenplay. Here are a couple of the revisions that I thought crossed the line.

– Chris Gardner actually received a $1000/month stipend during his internship. $1000 did more 20 years ago than it does today. While it was not a living wage, it definitely was something. The movie led me to believe that Gardner had no money but from the medical x-ray machines he was selling.

– On the money issue yet again. Chris Gardner scratches and claws his way to a few bucks so that he could actually stay in a hotel room, only to find out that the IRS has seized his money due to back taxes. I felt sorry for Chris Gardner and angry at the IRS. Again I was duped. It never happened. The film was obviously overplaying Gardner’s financial challenges to make him look more heroic. I don’t think it was necessary.

– The Rubik’s Cube scene is what gained interest on Chris Gardner’s behalf. I was indeed skeptical on whether this did in fact happen and am not surprised that it was an addition to the movie. However, I think it was pretty stupid to use a non-event as the event which basically lands Gardner an interview.

– The biggest of all revisions is the fact that Gardner’s wife in the movie, Linda, never existed. Chris Gardner actually left his wife after he impregnated Jackie, a mistress. The movie depicts “Linda” as an impatient wife who simply can’t stay in such an unstable financial situation with her husband. Gardner is made out to look like a strong and praiseworthy husband and father. I am not trying to be a legalistic prude in pointing this out. The fact is that we all sin, have our faults. I just can’t believe that Chris Gardner would allow this one revision, which makes him look heroic and praiseworthy, when he instead had a mistress, left his first wife, etc. On the other-hand, I do commend Chris Gardner for raising his son and taking responsibility. Kudos to him for redeeming the situation.

The Bible is full of characters who are portrayed with warts and all. The Bible’s trustworthiness is confirmed by the fact that no Hollywood revising takes place to maintain a heroic view of the Abrahams, Moses’, Davids, and such. Their lives are all marked by God’s grace. While Hollywood redeems characters by overplaying ones “dire” situation and desperation, only to then embellish ones rise to success, all the while deleting shameful and potentially embarrassing facts, the Bible doesn’t display humanity in such a way.  We are fallen sinners full of shame and embarrassment…there is no hiding it or erasing it from our biography. We must come to terms with ourselves and deal with it by coming to Jesus, who alone can right all sin and cleanse our conscience.

Lastly, thinking about pursing happiness, the movie’s premise is that a successful job will make one happy. I don’t dispute that having nice “things” is cool. I won’t deny such. God has given us many good gifts and they are to be enjoyed for His glory. However, we must love the giver more than the gift and realize that our joy and happiness rests in Him!!!


  1. Heidi says:

    Good review. Thank you for pointing out the facts of the story. I did not know any of those things when I watched it.

    I think of filmmaking as an art form (which doesn’t mean I would call all movies art), and I think there are very important decisions you make as an artist when you are creating. While the changes in this story made for a more appealing, probably more successful, feel-good movie, I think one could argue that it could have been equally as good had it stuck to the true facts. There are many films out there that take an honest look at human behavior and sin, and while they may not be “feel-gooders,” they are inspiring just the same. But then if he stuck to all of the facts, would that have taken away his creative license as a director? I don’t know. I just think people take “Based on a true story” too seriously.

  2. rickhogaboam says:

    I think the movie would have been just fine “keeping it real”. I take the “based on a true story” somewhat seriously in that I want to believe that the most inspiring parts of the movie are true. When they are not, then I feel I have been duped in my own inspiration. I expect some revision but no to the degree this film exhibited. I still think it was a great film.

  3. voiceofmimi says:

    i think when a film says “based on a true story”, it should be based on the truest of facts, to the best of the abilities of all peoples involved. period.

  4. glide says:

    Its a movie get over it somethings werent true which made the movie all the more better if he didnt have a problem with it why should you.

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