The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Review: Overcoming Adversity and Striving

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Updated: Jun 21, 2023
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The Pursuit of Happyness outlined several social issues that the starring actors faced; Will Smith playing Chris Gardner, and Jaden Smith playing Garden’s son Christopher. Pursuit of Happyness was based on the real-life experiences of Christopher Gardner, who was once a homeless single father who struggled hard to become a successful stockbroker. The movie shows the audience the close relationship between the father and the son; they underline the fact that parents need to provide the proper care and attention to children so that they can maintain psychological development.

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The film allows the audience to make a connection to their personal lives, and it also helps most people make sense of the world in which they live. The film resembles a number of social messages in the film for society.

The Pursuit of Happyness shows the different movements a person can take on the social ladder. Throughout the movie, we witness how Chris overcomes being homeless and without a job. By the end, we are shown how he became a millionaire owner of a stock firm. This is a great example of social mobility, with Chris being able to experience both downward and upward mobility. The film starts off with Chris’s story; we are shown that he is living in the lower class population. During his internship, he drops below the poverty line, and in one of the main scenes, we are shown where he and Christopher return back to the motel room to find their belongings removed, so they are left with no money or place to go. A validation of his downward social mobility is when Chris gets so desperate to the point that he sells his blood to raise money just so he can survive another day. Chris remains this way until the end of the film, where he finally lands and secures the dream position with the company. Here we are shown where he made an upward social mobility progress, as he secured the dream job earning a middle-class income and lifestyle, and he ended up becoming a millionaire stockbroker, motivational speaker, and author. After becoming a millionaire, a speaker, and an author, he settled down into the upper-class lifestyle.

Due to the symbols of social stratification, people in this film interact mostly with people who share the same social class, causing Chris to stand out more among the upper-class society. Suits, luxury cars, and expensive luncheons are regular and standard in the world Chris is trying to pursue, and this puts a strain on his insufficient financial lifestyle. When trying to keep up with the representation of what a successful businessman looks like, Chris alternate between two suits. He has pretended to own certain cars and bailed on a taxi after pretending he has enough money to pay for all the broker’s rides. When Chris offers to pay the taxi fee, he wants to be seen as the image of a successful businessman, even though he has inadequate funds. If he refused or showed that he didn’t have enough funds, then he would have been represented as a lower-class man, therefore losing his chances of getting the job he really wanted. In spite of all his sufferings and challenges, Chris still succeeds, and the high-status job that allows him pleasure and security in his and his son’s life is a symbol of what happiness is in Chris’s eyes.

By looking at class division as a basic part of the American culture, functional analysis is “a theoretical framework in which society is viewed as composed of various parts, each with a function that, when fulfilled, contributes to society’s equilibrium.” (Henslin, 2012, p. 26). This theory maintains the idea that class stratification is essential and key for society to function properly. In the Pursuit of Happyness, Chris realizes his role as a lower class by doing the groundwork for successful businessmen. He was tricked into selling the scanners since his job provided hardly any room for growth, and the commissions he was receiving were very little compared to what the manufacturer of the product was making. Even working that job, he still plays an effective role in the corporate plan. Functional experts want to see class division in the employed world as an essential part, as society would not function properly if all classes were equal. The functionalist theory side of this film showed that the most qualified and skilled people usually fill the high and most important positions in a company. Chris is a good example of how he has to start at the bottom as an intern since his lack of education. Without proper education, he cannot compete against others who are pursuing to be a stock broker.

This movie goes in depth when discovering conflicting issues within classes in society. The conflict theory is “a theoretical framework in which society is viewed as composed of groups that are competing for scarce resources.” (Henslin, 2012, p. 8). Since Chris was born into a different social class, his family passed on social disadvantages and privileges that many of his fellow interns didn’t have to face. Him coming from a different social class, he starts his journey as a broker from an underprivileged standpoint. From having financial strain, stress from being a single parent, lack of transportation and housing, and lack of professional attire were all reasons that made Chris disadvantaged in his social class. In society, we are shown that the upper class usually controls the lower class by keeping them from being any type of competition. When coming from an upper-class family, you have more time to pursue and achieve any goals or competitive jobs since they come from a family who has a generous out of money and is able to hire people to help out their family. Since Chris don’t have adequate fund and stability, he is forced to spend his time working dead-end jobs just to get by through the days. This does not give their class a reasonable chance to strive, so they continue the pattern of their lives, starting at the bottom. This is an example of how the conflict theory shows the control of the higher class over the lower class.

The following theories show how social stratification and division can be harmful to society. Chris’s place was at first in the proletariat society, which is made up of mass workers exploited by the bourgeoisie society, which consists of capitalists who own the means to produce wealth (Henslin, 2012, p. 28). His talent allowed him to move upward on the social ladder, which allowed him to start his family in a new social class. On the other hand, this is not a benefit that comes with living in poverty for the lower classes. Even though his success was founded in the end, Chris still had to falsely take on the characteristics of an upper-class man when he was working with his future employers in the company. The conflict between the two groups was so countless that Chris had no other choice but to hide his lower-class characteristics so he could be considered for a position. Regardless of the difficulties and obstacles that he had to face, Chris still was able to achieve his goal and making into the higher class.

What is happiness, and how do we successfully achieve this goal? Chris Gardner not only answered those questions, but he backed them up with the real-life consequences he had to face to reach his goal. I watched Chris’s strain and journey on the social ladder. I also gained an understanding of the social functions of class and status and just how much they affect a person’s success. Chris was able to rise above the average for his social group as he challenged certain stereotypes and class. We are shown that social standing is not set in stone. They are always the way to move up in down in social standings. The Pursuit of Happyness is a very inspiring film as it represents the struggles that many faces, especially those who live in poverty or in a third-world country. In the end, we are shown that we can accomplish anything as long we put our minds to it.

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The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Review: Overcoming Adversity and Striving. (2023, Jun 21). Retrieved from