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"It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?"—Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
Gardner invests the family savings in a new type of bone density scanner which is more expensive but with clearer imaging. This investment ultimately causes troubles between himself and his wife, causing her to leave him with their young son, Christopher (played by Smith's real life son, Jaden). Gardner then gets a 6-month, unpaid internship at Dean Witter, a brokerage firm.
The 'unpaid' part makes life very difficult. It's not long before Gardner and his son are homeless, and have to rely on each other to have a chance at an actual job.
- Adaptation Distillation: From Christopher Gardner's autobiography of the same name, which encompasses a larger swathe of his life.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Shiawase no Chakira" as its theme song.
- Arc Words: "This part of my life is called..."
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The opening scene with the "happyness" graffiti has the word "fuck" clearly seen spray-painted on the wall. This seems to have been done intentionally to avoid a PG rating.
- Broken Aesop: Halfway through, Chris makes quite a good observation that you can only pursue happiness, and expecting to actually have it for more than a brief moment at a time is an illusion. The film ends with a Happy Ending implying everything will be alright from now on.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: "maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it" - but then again, maybe we can.
- Empathy Doll Shot: Something similar is done with a Captain America action figure.
- Good Parent: Chris is an extremely devoted and loving father.
- Heroes Act Villains Hinder
- Inherited Illiteracy Title: Happyness is on a day-care mural.
- Never Trust a Trailer: From some trailers, one might assume this is a comedy. It's not.
- Oscar Bait
- Rags to Riches: Chris Gardner becomes a millionaire entrepreneur in Real Life.
- Real Life Relative: Will Smith plays Chris Gardner Sr. and Jaden Smith plays his son.
- San Francisco
- Self-Made Man: Christopher Gardner becomes this.
- Taking the Kids: Christopher's wife, Linda, tries to do this, though eventually she agrees not to.
- Train Escape
- Truth in Television: In fact, the real Christopher Gardner is shown in the end in a suit and tie.
- Unlocking the Talent: The whole point of the film.