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"Pursuit of Happyness"


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The kids stay in the picture

Children are being cast in complex roles with perfs that have adults taking notice


In a season when a movie called "Little Children" features half a dozen adults who are case studies in infantilism -- and where the most responsible among them, a convicted child molester, is portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley of "The Bad News Bears," who's been MIA for the past 15 years -- perhaps it's only fitting that a record number of adult dramas feature children in pivotal roles.

Not counting kidpics, some eight films this fall feature actors between the ages of 8 and 13 in what can only be described as nuanced character roles: Abigail Breslin, 10, stars as the eccentric, eponymous "Little Miss Sunshine"; Ivana Baquero, 12, carries most of the dramatic weight in Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," as does Jodelle Ferland, 12, in Terry Gilliam's "Tideland"; Keke Palmer, 13, in "Akeelah and the Bee" holds her own against an imperious Laurence Fishburne, as does Cameron Bright, 13, against Aaron Eckhart in "Thank You for Smoking"; Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's son Jaden, 8, makes a memorable film debut alongside his father in "The Pursuit of Happyness"; and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," dedicated "To my children ... the brightest lights in the darkest nights," combines multiple story threads of parents and children to showcase an American and Moroccan ensemble led by Elle Fanning, 8, dynastic heir to her sister Dakota. (A likely candidate for this group, Shareeka Epps in "Half Nelson," is 17, although she plays younger.)

Each of these, whether through opposition or augmentation, brings a value-added performance to the template of the cute, generic child actor.

The most likely prerequisite for the standout child lead would seem to be a heightened intelligence. Cindy Osbrink of the Osbrink Agency reps more than 200 child actors -- anywhere from 15 days old to those in their mid-20s who play younger -- including both Elle and Dakota, now 12 (starring this Christmas in "Charlotte's Web").

"She's very bright," Osbrink says of Dakota, who in particular seems to have set the bar for her generation. "She remembers everything. She's my walking computer. But I think a lot of it, too, is trusting their gut and their instincts, which Sean Penn taught Dakota (in "I Am Sam," which also introduced Elle in a flashback scene). It was a great gift. It was hard, because it was her first (major) movie, but he improvises everything, and when he played that character, it was never the same twice."

"I don't think I'm smarter than other kids," says Baquero, star of the Spanish film "Pan's Labyrinth," although her stunning command of English would seem to belie her claims. Of her director, whom she calls "an old kid," Baquero says, "One thing Guillermo's really proud of about me as an actress is that he says I have a really good instinct: If something goes wrong, I continue, and try to fix the scene in some way. So I think I'm quick, I get the message."

Such instincts would seem especially imperative in the realm of comedy, especially to an actor whose identity is only just emerging.

"There's a difference between when my friends laugh at me and when they're laughing with me," says Breslin, who made an early impression with her comical presence in the thriller "Signs," but has proved herself equally adept at existential drama in the lesser-seen "Keane." "The first time I saw 'Little Miss Sunshine' with an audience, some of the stuff they laughed at, I didn't even think it was funny. But then, I don't really get some of the stuff grown-ups laugh at."

"I really feel like people are finally seeing kids as not just a prop for an adult actor," says Breslin's mother, Kim Breslin, whose son Spencer stars in the recently released "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause."

"The interesting thing with Abby is that, without ever having studied anything, in her own personal life she's a very empathetic person and she feels things very deeply. And so in this kind of strange, bizarre way, she method acts without intending to, or being able to identify it as such."

But the full-time stage mom is quick to point out her limitations in dissecting either child's process. "Without ever knowing it would happen, I'm now raising two actors, and I don't get any of it," she says. "I don't understand you people at all."

"Happyness" co-star Smith, 8 years old and a closet goofball, is understandably limited in his professional insights, although his innate timing, charisma and genetic movie-star looks seem to assure him of a career if he wants it. He defines acting as "making reality onscreen," identifies "crying" as the hardest part of it and, when pressed on whether acting is similar to playing -- childhood's designated profession -- replies with a skeptical, "Not really." Of his more famous co-star, he says diplomatically, "He helped me sometimes, but sometimes I had to help him."

"I think what happened was somebody realized that children can act," says Osbrink, "and so now they're writing roles for children, instead of hiring a bratty kid to be a brat. I think a lot of that has to do with Disney and Nickelodeon coming onboard and creating shows that kids star in.

"It used to be a really big gap between going through puberty and coming out on the other end as an adult, but now teens are the hottest thing out there. It's OK to be 12 and on TV and have braces. Dakota has braces right now."

"Kids either have a raw natural talent or they don't," says Haley, who was stomped to death by Donald Sutherland in his first major role, in "The Day of the Locust," and who worked as a commercials director in San Antonio, Texas, before his recent comeback in "Little Children" and "All the King's Men." "I think when you're 12 years old, your tools are limited. But the good news is that you're usually playing a 12-year-old."

source: variety.com

Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

November 28th, 2006

By Brian Gibson

Release Date: December 15, 2006

The Pursuit of HappynessThe Pursuit of Happyness is a powerful story that dances around the heartbreaks and victories of life, while being anchored by a inspiring performance from Will Smith. Smith and Happyness have made one of the best films of the year.

For those who are not familiar with the story of Christopher Gardner, I do not wish to spoil it for you. But, since you are on the internet and might want to know exactly what the film is about, I will say that it is a true life rags-to-riches story.

I have to be honest by saying that I had no initial interest in seeing this film. However, when leaving the theater, the film left me with a flurry of feelings. The combination of a great story, superb performances, and the perfect father-son chemistry left me in awe. What was displayed on screen didn’t come off as acting, it was a genuine display of emotion and love for oneself and one’s children.

Will Smith has had his share of great roles. Let’s face it, he went from Fresh Prince to blockbuster phenom quicker than most of us could say Bad Boys. It’s not a secret though, to say that Smith hasn’t really shown any range as an actor since Ali. Until now. The performance of Smith alone is sure to create some of that coveted Oscar buzz. The surprise of the film though, came in the supporting role of Jaden Smith. I’m sure that performing wasn’t difficult considering his role was to act alongside his father. The chemistry between the two actors was flawless. Their interactions on screen were filled with an authenticity that could only come from their life experiences off-screen together.

The film was beautifully paced with equal amounts of laughs and tenderness. Director Gabriele Muccino was faced with the task of transforming Smith into a real man with real life problems, and creating a heartfelt relationship between the film’s star and it’s audience. For most films, the biggest hurdle is finding a story and an actor who can relate to their audience. For Happyness, there were no hurdles or complications. The story radiated off the screen and flowed into the hearts of the audience quicker than most of us could say Oscar.

I will highly recommend this film to anyone of any age or situation in life. No demographic can claim this film as their own, this story is a poignant message to anyone who has ever fallen down in life.

The Upside: Humor, tenderness, and inspiration make this a must see film for anyone who has ever had a bad day.

The Downside: May come off as just another “based on a true story” Hollywood jobs.

On the Side: Speedcubing champions Tyson Mao and Toby Mao were hired to teach Will Smith how to solve a Rubik’s Cube

Final Grade: A

source: http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/m...f-happyness.php

Edited by MissAshley
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from Liz Smith...

Thumbs up

In The Pursuit of Happyness, the story of a strung-out smart guy, Will Smith shows us in this wonderfully suspenseful and sometimes heartbreaking film that he can really act!

This is a movie that stays with you to the very surprising ending. But you'll never be sure about the outcome. Don't read any reviews that tell you the plot. Just go and sit there ignorant, and have a wonderful time.

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and the oscar goes to ... :pony: :pony:

Yeah, Will's starting to get heavy Oscar buzz and the movie hasn't even come out yet. Almost everyone who's seen it and have given a review as mentioned that it's likely that Will or the film itself will receive an Oscar nomination.

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Take your parents to see it over the holidays, 30 November 2006


Author: thinkr from United States

I was fortunate to see this movie in a screening. I really enjoyed it, and felt that it lived up to the teary and heartwarming trailer. While the movie has an uplifting "go for your dreams" message, the deepest theme is that of family.

Will Smith did a great job as the father trying to protect his son from their circumstances of becoming homeless as much as he can, while at the same time trying to work in the competitive world of stocks as an un-paid intern. Jaden Smith was outstanding as the preschool-aged kid who knows things are going wrong and tries to have a stiff upper lip, but just can't do it all the time.

The story is very touching and was close to home for me. My family has been through some tough times, and this movie just reminded me of how much my parents struggled to provide for our family and yet kept life fun as much as they could. I am excited to go see this with my parents as a way to say thank you.

From imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454921/

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Here's a negative review, but these guys hate most everything.


Finally. This is good because most of the arguments levied here against the movie are shallow and contrived. If that's the best they can do, this movie really is going to be good. I just wanted to hear some of the arguments against it.

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