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“The Pursuit of Happiness” is a biopic that tells of a man named Chris Gardner, a homeless salesman. After investing all his life savings in buying portable bone density scanners, which what was supposed to bring him riches, instead turns into his life support as many medical industries felt no need for such medical devices. As financial burdens creep up on him in the process, it caused him to lose both his wife and home. Even after landing as an intern for a brokerage firm, the job does not offer him any pay. Refusing to give in into financial hardships, he tries to give a better life for him and his son by finding different types of methods to earn money. The director for this movie is Gabriele Muccino, an Italian film director that became a successful American film maker. This movie is a biopic of Chris Gardner on his struggles of being a homeless single father.
News about poverty are often unreported and even if it is covered, the severity of the situation in these reports are often undermined. I have been in many voluntary works and seen the severity of such situations, one of the experiences was being a volunteer to help the neediest in Cambodia back when I was in Secondary 3. Therefore, I feel this movie is a perfect example to show the severity of people living in poverty.
The overall theme of this film is Poverty. I have chosen this theme as the movie portrays the struggles of being poor with no financial aiding and the extent the father went through to provide food, water and shelter for his son.
This movie reminded me of the past experiences working my father, when I was watching the scenes where Chris Gardner tries to sell his scanners by walking from door to door in medical buildings. These experiences made me feel the stress and burden the job had on my father, till the point that my father eventually fell ill from working. Although my financial background was far from what was portrayed in the movie, it still made me feel the need to appreciate everything that he has given to me, starting from the smallest thing like water and electricity. As a son to my parents, I should repay what they have given me by working hard in my studies and ensure that their efforts to uphold our family will not be wasted. And as for my mother that has worked hard relentlessly for the past 18 years, just by mopping the floor during my free will help to lift her burdens. These small actions should be adopted by me as it will help my parents better cope the stress of raising a family. This film has also made me realize the importance of time. As time is limited, it made me feel the need to cherish the time I have with my family. After watching the movie, I felt the need to go out with my family more often and talk to them rather than just staying in my room and play my games. Games can be stopped and played later, but the time with my family should be cherished as they are limited. My experiences in Cambodia have made me better understand the severity of poverty. However, I usually find myself waiting for my school to host such voluntary work and the thought of finding these opportunities for myself never really crossed my mind. There are many people out there still that needed our help and joining voluntary groups in nearby community centers can help me to take my first step into helping needy groups.
Poverty is a factor that someone is unable to financially support himself. Coming from a decent household, I have never felt the need to rely on government for financial support, however, scenes in the movie when Chris tried to get into a shelter for the homeless, but instead it was found out to be fully occupied, really gets me thinking about the extent of the government in helping the homeless and the financially unstable households. I have always thought that America would be almost free of poverty, due to the many television shows that I love to watch that have portrayed America as a dream country. However, a search in US Census Bureau found that 15% of its people are living in poverty. Just like Chris in the movie, people in the US are living in poverty due to low wage incomes, with families of four earning less than $23,000 annually and half the jobs in America paying less than $34,000 a year. To me, it was a surprising find, and I have realized that poverty in America has always been a tough issue to fix unless decent wages are being paid to aid these people. Furthermore, poverty is not just an issue in America, but it is happening worldwide. Linking back to my experiences in Cambodia, people in Cambodia survives through agriculture which does not even provide a decent wage. Education system in Cambodia is also undermined whereby only 37.1% of its people can read, write and speak. Just like the scene from the movie whereby Chris is asked to fill in his resume with his education status, and he said that he didn’t need so much lines, today, there are many countries that are still lacking in education, countries such as Cambodia and China which contributes to the rise of low wage salaries due to insufficient jobs that pays decent wage salaries. Therefore, this movie can be link to the poverty that in is present in today’s society.
As this movie is a biopic of Chris Gardner, the director’s intention is to tell Chris Gardner’s experience in poverty. However, I feel that there is an underlying intention in the movie. Other than to show the extend parents can go just to provide the necessity for their children, another intention could be that the director want to show that the determination of constantly seeking for opportunities to succeed in life will result in life-changing opportunities to appear.
Based on the actual life of Chris Gardner, the costumes used in the movie are very relatable today, from people wearing formal clothing when working to homeless people wearing rugged clothes and pants. The make-up used in the movie are very subtle such as the homeless getting dirt and sand all over their faces and arms which plays an important role in depicting their social status.
The behaviors of the character in this movie are portrayed realistically just like the scene after Chris was hit by a car and left with him limping on his way to fetch his son from daycare. There were also subtle aggressive behaviors such as Chris and the homeless man fighting for the vacancy in the shelter. Chris also portrays a sense of nervousness that the manager called him up for a meeting that will decide his job.
As this movie took place in San Francisco, most of the scenes were filmed on location which makes the movie much more realistic, just like the scene where Chris is chased by the taxi driver and run through a park to evade from him. The small confined space of the office provides a mood of stress and pressure when Chris was trying to sell bank accounts to his customers to get the upper hand in landing his job.
There were several props that play a significant role in the movie. The rubric’s cube was one the item as it plays an important role in impressing the manager so that Chris can get an interview for the job, which changed his life. Another prop would be the scanner, and its importance can only be described as his only financial support for his family.
The diegetic sound in the movie such as the splashing of water when Chris is bathing and the sound of door bashing when the father and son was sleeping in the public toilet makes the movie feel more inclusive and realistic. Non-diegetic sounds such as the melancholic background music being played when Chris lost his scanner in the subway has an emotional impact on the viewers which helps the viewers to be engrossed in the movie.
When the Chris was in the shelter for the homeless, he tried to study under the dim conditions. The lightings in that scene were high in contrast which made the viewer’s focus more on him as compared to his surroundings.
When the father and son were spending the night in the toilet, the camera was zoomed in onto Chris, which the viewers can see the important details of shock and helplessness from Chris’ face.
The scene which the camera was pointing at Chris from the top makes the viewer’s feel that Chris is vulnerable and helpless.
When Chris was running away from the taxi, the camera was jerking, which makes the viewer’s felt like they were running in the movie.
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