08 Jan 2013
The Formalist’s Interpretation of The Pursuit of Happyness
Chris Gardner is a single father struggling to make ends meet for him and his son, Christopher. Vying for a position as a stock broker in a San Francisco firm, he and Christopher are taken on a turbulent journey in and out of homelessness, being broke, and even having their possessions stolen. The movie Pursuit of Happyness is an emotional rollercoaster, so one can imagine my dismay when I was instructed to take all the emotional content of the film and scrap it, instead looking at it through the eyes of a formalist.
The clear protagonist in the film is Chris Gardner, while no antagonist is explicitly stated. One could interpret Chris’ seemingly unreachable dream as his antagonist, as well as the landlords who kicked the father-son duo out of their homes, the homeless man who stole the “time machine,” or even the man who owed Chris $14. All these characters are symbolic of the hardships the proverbial American dream of success presents to people who try and achieve it. Chris’ resolve and ability to not let setbacks deter him help him achieve the dream of becoming a stock broker. He is not a static person at all, he seems to always have a goal in mind, with a good plan on how to reach it.
The manner in which the characters speak is very frank. In the mind of Chris and his son, everything is simple, “If you want somethin', go get it. Period.” He hardly speaks with literary devices, I believe because he has a young child who is just beginning to comprehend the English language, and read. I recall a scene where Chris is surprised at 5-year-old Christopher’s question on wether a curse word is spelled correctly.
The climax of the film approaches when things seem to be looking up for Chris. He is closing almost all of his sales at the company, and is on his way to becoming a full stock broker. It’s arguable that the climax is when he is...