Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Book and Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness.

This experience was aberrational.

I liked the movie better than the book.

While the movie almost ignored Chris Gardner's upbringing, more than half of the book wallowed in the despair of Mr. Gardner's early life. Reading one tragic experience after another (long before the events featured in the film) bordered on tedium and inspired fatigue. The book unduly delayed in getting to Mr. Gardner's triumphs, which are replete.

Contrarily, the movie isolated and celebrated Mr. Gardner's relationship with his young son, as they struggled with several months of homelessness while Gardner assiduously pursued his dream of becoming a stockbroker. The appeal of the film was to glorify the beautiful father-son bond made stronger in the crucible of these trials.

Both the book and the movie credited a San Francisco church's (Glide Memorial Methodist) role in helping father and son in their most needy moments. The book especially waxed eloquently on Pastor Cecil Williams' dedication to the poor in accord with Christ's admonition.

A sample: "[Y]ou couldn't live in the Bay Area without knowing Cecil Williams and getting a sense of his message. Walk that walk, he preached. On any Sunday, his sermon might address a number of subjects, but that theme was always in there, in addition to the rest.... Don't just talk that talk, walk it and go forward." (p. 7.) Mr. Gardner continues: "Go forward. That became my mantra, inspired by the Reverend Cecil Williams, one of the most enlightened men to ever walk this earth, a friend and mentor who goodness blessed me in ways I can never sufficiently recount." (pp. 6-7.)

The book curiously credits three writers. The front cover identifies the authors as "Chris Gardner with Quincy Trope." The title page instead identifies them as "Chris Gardner with Quincy Trope and Mim Eichler Rivas." In the acknowledgements Mr. Gardner writes: "Mim Eichler Rivas helped me to open up my soul. Quincy put down what happened--Mim put down how what happened felt. If there is any sense of feeling, passion, or dreams here, it is all due to Mim." (p. xi; emphasis in original.) Perhaps the writers by committee approach may have contributed to its unevenness and other shortcomings.

So, if you missed the movie in the theater, it's definitely worth getting the newly released DVD.