Soulful and tough in equal measure, The Pursuit of Happyness is the ideal movie for the Christmas season. It’s a triumph-of-the-spirit film in which the protagonist’s journey from poverty and occasional homelessness to solvency and the promise of a future is so thorny and obstacle-laden that you can’t imagine how he’s going to get there. And the moment of triumph, coming after so much heartbreak, is understated.
The director, Gabriele Muccino, is an Italian working for the first time in the U.S., and he doesn’t approach the material—the true story of stockbroker Chris Gardner, dramatized by Steven Conrad—in the usual Hollywood way. Muccino plays against the familiar rhythms; he keeps his foot firmly on the downbeat.