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The Pursuit Of Happiness

September 5, 2015

TPOHSan Francisco 1981. Chris Gardner dreams of being a good father to his five-year-old son, Christopher and of being more than just a salesman. But he is struggling to sell a new product to the medical profession, and his girlfriend Linda has to work double shifts in a laundry to cover the shortfall in income. Eventually, it gets too much for her and she leaves, but Chris insists on having custody of his son.

Chris applies for a competitive internship with a prestigious stockbroker firm. Through dogged determination and charm he secures a position, only to find it is unpaid with no guarantee of a job at the end. He calculates he can just about make ends meet for the six months of the internship. He’s wrong, and he and Christopher end up homeless. His strength of character and resolve, however, carry him through seemingly impossible circumstances, and at the end of the film he achieves his goal.

While the film’s strapline is ‘for his son, one man will reach for the impossible’, the Italian director Gabriele Muccino says that the film is really about achieving ‘the American dream’. In the closing scene, a man walks past Chris and Christopher – this is the real Chris Gardner, who has become a ‘Wall Street legend’.

The pursuit of happiness – Chris wants to be happy! But surveys tell us that ‘life satisfaction’, perhaps the best way of gauging happiness, has remained unchanged despite increased wealth since the late 70s. cf Matthew 5.1–12 —The beatitudes come at the beginning of a group of Jesus’ teachings known as ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. Beatitude comes from the Latin beatitudo, meaning happiness

Homelessness – The film portrays the Gardner family’s descent into homelessness.. Around 25 per cent of homeless people are aged between 18 and 25. The homeless people who worked as extras received a full day’s pay at minimum wage ($8.62/hr) and free catered meals. For some it was the first money they’d made in a while.

Christopher Gardner: You gotta trust me, all right?
Christopher: I trust you.
Christopher Gardner: ‘Cause I’m getting a better job
Christopher Gardner: I met my father for the first time when I was 28 years old. I made up my mind that when I had children, my children were going to know who their father was.
Christopher Gardner: Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right?
Christopher: All right.
Christopher Gardner: You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.
Christopher Gardner: [about the spelling mistakes in the graffiti of a building] It’s not H-A-P-P-Y-N-E-S-S Happiness is spelled with an “I” instead of a “Y”
Christopher: Oh, okay. Is “Fuck” spelled right?
Christopher Gardner: Um, yes. “Fuck” is spelled right but you shouldn’t use that word.
Christopher: Why? What’s it mean?
Christopher Gardner: It’s, um, an adult word used to express anger and, uh, other things. But it’s an adult word. It’s spelled right, but don’t use it.
Christopher Gardner: Probably means there’s a good chance. Possibly means we might or we might not.
Christopher: Okay.
Christopher Gardner: So, what does probably mean?
Christopher: It means we have a good chance.
Christopher Gardner: And what does possibly mean?
Christopher: I know what it means! It means we’re not going to the game.
Christopher Gardner: 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?
[repeated line] Christopher: Where are we going?
Christopher: Hey dad, you wanna hear something funny? There was a man who was drowning, and a boat came, and the man on the boat said “Do you need help?” and the man said “God will save me”. Then another boat came and he tried to help him, but he said “God will save me”, then he drowned and went to Heaven. Then the man told God, “God, why didn’t you save me?” and God said “I sent you two boats, you dummy!”
Reverend Williams: The important thing about that freedom train, is it’s got to climb mountains. We ALL have to climb mountains, you know. Mountains that go way up high, and mountains that go deep and low. Yes, we know what those mountains are here at Glide. We sing about them.
Christopher: You’re a good papa.

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