This movie starts with a statement that it is “inspired by a true story”. Of course that is Hollywood-speak for “there is not a grain of truth to be found here.” Fortunately something doesn’t have to be true to be a good story. In fact this one is a real charmer.
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a smart man (though without much formal education) but he is very unlucky. Life seems determined not to hand him a break. He has invested all of his meager savings in a business selling bone-density scanners, but though he seems to be a competent salesman nobody wants to buy them. He is behind on his rent and taxes, and his wife is sick of working double shifts to make ends meet.
Then he has a brilliant idea: become a stockbroker! Actually this makes more sense than one might think. He knows how to sell things, and a stockbroker is essentially a salesman who sells securities.
He manages to fast-talk his way into a six month internship at Dean Witter, which gives him about one chance in twenty of actually landing a job at the brokerage. But the internship is unpaid, which leaves the question of how he is going to support his family for six months. Thus begins a seemingly unending series of disasters and humiliations.
At this point the movie could easily have collapsed, becoming unwatchable or ridiculous. It is saved mainly by the skill of the actors. Every character rings true, even when the situations begin to seem implausible.
Will Smith’s portrayal of Chris Gardner is the heart of the movie. The character’s devotion to his son, and his determination to persevere in the face of incredible setbacks, is uplifting and inspiring. Highly recommended.