At the start of the film Linda is pulling double shifts while Chris is out selling bone density machines, struggling to make ends meet and support their young son Christopher. Things are not going well, the bone density machine isn’t selling as well as Chris had hoped and he had invested all his money in it. They are behind on the rent and nothing seems to be going their way. Their marriage too is under pressure and when Linda gets the offer of a job in New York she takes it, leaving Christopher behind with his father.
Chris, inspired to become a stoke-broker because he saw a shiny car, applies for an internship, and gets it, only to discover that it is unpaid.
He can’t pay the rent and is forced from his apartment to a motel, but can’t afford that and ends up spending the night in a train station, all the time trying to take care of his son. They move from homeless shelter to shelter, all the while Chris is trying to be the best intern at the stockbrokers, to be the one they offer a job to, all in the pursuit of happiness.
Acting-wise this is a good film. Will Smith has shown that he can handle more serious characters and is entirely believable here. His son, Jaden plays his on screen son and is really fantastic. But I just couldn’t get behind the central message of this film, which seemed to me to be “aim as high as you can, because if you try hard enough you will succeed and it will all be worth it”.
I don’t buy that.
What if there had been another intern in a similar position to our hero? One of them would have come away with nothing, and ended up on the streets, pursuing happiness is all well and good, but you have to deal in reality. We are constantly shown there happy ever after success stories, but what about all those people who go after this great prize only to fail? We don’t get to see their stories, yet surely their warnings are just as important as the rarer winners?
And then there is Chris’s message to his son, never let anyone tell you what you can’t do, never accept limits but find out what you want and go for it, don’t let anything stop you achieving it. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
Am I the only one a little disturbed by how selfish and stupid that message is?