So why is there a "y" in happyness? For Will Smith's Chris Gardner it is the improper spelling on his son's day care door, for this film and Gardner's life it is symbolic of the world he toils in, one that is not quite on center but worth living.
Set in 1981 as President Ronald Reagan decries the slowing economy, Chris Gardner is selling bone density scanners to hospitals and doctors. This was to be the breakthrough on his way up the ladder of success, but the expensive machines are not received as significantly better than the traditional x-ray machines and the family lives on the salary of his wife.
Smith works the character quite effectively and we are not forced to experience a tear-jerker as he fights to stay above water which at times requires him to sleep in shelters at night and to insist on receiving the fourteen dollars his friend owes him. His attitude is to continue to push for his dream job even though he is not likely to be the one chosen from twenty interns at a large brokerage firm.
Linda, his wife (Thandie Newton), is somewhat of the villain pushing him and berating his pie-in-the-sky adventures and she even eventually leaves him and their son, played quite effectively by Smith's son (Jaden). At that point we find the script bending a bit too far into the scope of problems faced by the two. Overdue parking tickets lead to court and the hauling off of his car, he looses a shoe and returns to work with just one, they are locked out of a cheep motel and at times sleep on a bus or on the floor of a train station bathroom.
But by the time we grow weary of the trials in his life we see a glimmer of hope as he succeeds in entering the internship program by impressing an executive with his ability to play Rubik's Cube successfully. We also watch him move to the top of the sales lists by directly engaging a high-roller at home. That leads to contacts and a chance to see a ball game in a private suite.
I guess the film is a blueprint for capitalism in which ambition, hope and determination make a difference, but luck also plays a part.
Smith shows maturing as a performer, more serious, a little older and very effective as one who we all cheer for as he battles and succeeds.