Sunday, January 21, 2007

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

If there should be a change to this famous phrase about the inalienable rights of citizens asserted by Thomas Jefferson in the declaration of Independence, it should probably be the spelling of happiness to happyness (note the y).

The movie inspired by real life rags-to-riches story of Chris Gardner, a self-made millionaire, set in the early 80s. One of the first scenes of the movie shows Reagan talking about years of economic downturn on one of those old TVs with a knob. Chris struggles to sell a portable version of a hard bone density scanner (or whatever) which btw looks like a 80s portable computer given that the movie is set in San Francisco. Anywho, he has a really really hard time paying the bills and house his kid.

Chris has a thing for neatly dividing his existence into phases like "being stupid", "running across SF" (to catch up with 101 things trying to pull apart his already below the poverty line existence)* etc. As the movie detailedly fleshes out the abject poverty of a black man, it can get very depressing and even tear-jerking. But on the upside, smiles, smarts and most of all the fatherly love and the warmth between him and his son keep you hoping for that concluding phase of brief period of happyness.

The movie avoids saccharine sentiment but at the same time takes two full hours to sketch out Chris Gardner's exhaustive runs up and down the hills of both San Francisco and his own life.

The movie for the most part concentrates on details of pursuit of riches (or in this case, riches for bare-minimum existence), but the movie has its greatest justification for the title, when in the end Chris realizes part of his what-i-can-be-dreams and starts walking away from constant disappointments with himself.

* Being poor has a huge price. A study about price comparisons in Dharvi (the biggest slum of Bombay and Asia) and a close-by well to-do neighborhood has concluded that clean water is about 30 times costlier in Dharvi.