The Pursuit of Happyness is a story based on Chris Gardner’s (played by Will Smith) life struggles and his obstacles before reaching his dream, or in this case, a dream job that would certainly lift off the financial burden for him and his son (played by Smith’s son Jayden) and allow them to live normally like the middle-class America that they are surrounded with. The film focuses on the challenges that Chris Gardner face in order for him to reach his goal and how he was able to attain it. The movie is specific about one man’s economic perils during the 1980s set in San Francisco at the dawn of go-go capitalism (Entertainment Weekly). Chris Gardner is a freelance salesman in his late 30s selling medical equipments, specifically a bone scanner, wherein he puts in all his savings to capitalize on the said contraptions. When business runs slow, Gardner becomes trapped with the equipments, left with no option but to try to sell them going door to door to each hospital or clinic he could possibly sell his product to. His wife Linda (played by Thandie Newton) works double shifts at a factory and gets fed up with the financial crisis her family is going thru and thus decides to leave taking their son with her. Gardner, devastated by the action of his wife but very determined to make ends meet, takes his son from his wife and carried on, pushing through with selling his bone scanners.
While walking the streets of San Francisco, he bumps into a man driving a high-end sport car wearing a suit, obviously well off in life. He asks the man two questions: “what do you do, and how do you do it?” The man answered that he was a stockbroker at Dean Witter and from then on, Gardner realizes what he wants to do and what could help him out of his crisis.
Gardner pursues the career of becoming a stockbroker, even accepting an internship at the prestigious company without salary, competing against middle-class American citizens, and given the fact that he was African-American is there at the margins – he would surely have gone to college had he come from a less hardscrabble background. Surviving by other means like selling his blood to the local hospital for money and relying on the payment he gets from his bone scanners, Gardner slowly runs out of resources and was evicted from the house and later on the motel that he and his son rents out, forcing them to sleep in a homeless shelter and worse, a public subway men’s toilet. Despite all these hardships, Gardner still puts his son to day care or as he calls it, “the place where they spelled happiness wrong” and still pushes through with the internship without salary and without a guaranteed position. But with much hard work, befriending prospective clients and by passing the final exams of his internship, Gardner is offered the one position available at Dean Witter and becomes a stockbroker against all odds. The film ends with Gardner walking into the sunset holding his son’s hands and giving him a guarantee that they’re no longer sleeping at the homeless shelter.
The film presented the character and its setting in its purest form, staying true to its story and using little to no special effects at all to focus on its subject and highlight the moral of the character and the moral of the story, making it relatable and giving the film more personality to be able to interact with its audience, thus achieving its inspiring outlook.
The editing of this film is a technique called a montage editing, where, in its broadest meaning is the process of cutting up film and editing it into the screened sequence. It is used to consciously convey subjective messages through the juxtaposition of shots which are related in composition or movement, through repetition of images, through cutting rhythm, detail or metaphor. It uses conspicuous techniques which may include: use of close- ups, relatively frequent cuts, dissolves, superimposition, fades and jump cuts. Such editing should suggest a particular meaning (The Grammar of Film and TV). The Pursuit of Happyness is a film based on a true story set in the early ‘80s and defines the life experience of a man who has struggled, has been defeated with life’s challenges yet emerges victorious. The montage editing was necessary for the film to deliver its message well to its audience and to better emphasize the setting, the environment and the character which is the main focus of the film. Had the editor used a different type of method such as invisible editing, wherein the story and the behavior of its characters are the center of attention and gives out the impression that the edits are always required and are motivated by the events in the ‘reality’ that the camera is recording rather than the result of a desire to tell a story in a particular way (The Grammar of Film and TV), the story and its supposed impact to its audience would’ve bland and confusing to its audience, it would not have been delivered and it wouldn’t have told the story in its correct essence. The montage editing is a subjective type of editing used to stress out a scene and give it emphasis, and using this technique it only justified the story and the character’s arch in the film as it is subjective as well and not only this, it gives definition to a particular period and a particular character as well. It was clever that this type of editing method was used for the film because it did not distract the psychological line of the character’s arch but highlighted not only the role it was meant to play but the setting of the film also, sending out a clear message.
The editing doesn’t affect much the psychological line of the character’s arch throughout the film because it stayed true to the essence of the personality of the character whom the film is based upon. Chris Gardner in real life was a struggling, hard-working, single African-American father in the 1980s and the film stayed true to that plot showing a character in its purest form as far as the film goes. The structure of the film using montage editing and its cinematography defined its story and brought out well Will Smith’s portrayal of such an inspiring character and role model.
Moreover, the film used voice-overs for every chapter of the story, injecting a more sense of reality as well as humor (or wit, I might say) as it was delivered as casual as it could be. Although the film falls in the drama category, the voice-overs made it considerably light and make its viewers realize that what they are seeing is a thing of the past. The fact that the story is narrated by its main character makes it more personal, relatable and inspiring. In a way, the narration brought meaning to the film as it justifies the message of pursuing your own happyness.
Furthermore, the musical score of the film stayed true to the time setting and environment of the story. It was nice that the musical score were mostly instrumental, again, only staying true and focused on the story itself. If familiar songs were used, it would’ve injected a more subjective point of view in an already subjective environment and manner.
As far as the interaction of the film to its audience goes, the montage editing method worked cohesively not only for the output of the film, but with the connection of the film with its audience. The editing is what defines the film, and in this particular one, it is what defines the story as well. The close-ups chase scenes and jump cuts were all used in the right scenes giving the film more character and more personality while sticking to its essence and its story.
In conclusion, the editing of the film The Pursuit of Happyness, highlights the psychological line of the character’s arch, stayed true not only to the main character’s personality, but to its setting and environment as well, helping it achieve its goal to tell an inspiring and capturing story for its audience.
1. The Pursuit of Happyness (film). 15 December 2006.
Director: Muccino, Gabriel.
2. The Grammar of TV and Film. 1994.
3. The Art of Film Editing.
4. Entertainment Weekly. Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness.06 December 2006.