Smith is a gifted actor, and this film really showcases his emotional range. His natural rapport with his son is in no way one-sided; Jaden Smith is believable and very charming. Certainly, the audience can feel secure that Chris Gardner, the main character, will succeed in some fashion or else a film would never have been based on his autobiography, but the simple, sentimental score, well-written screenplay, subtle direction and, above all, Will Smith's acting make us strive with Gardner, cry with him, and hurt with him.
Gardner's tale is like "Die Hard" for the masses; he has to endure being arrested, being evicted, fighting for a bed at the homeless shelter, trying to keep appointments and to study while holding down two full-time jobs with no car, sprinting all over San Francisco, attempting to keep himself and his son clean--it just does not stop. Watch Smith's face during the film--he shows us a man who only just manages to fend off despair. He bleeds and weeps because of the injustice in the world, with disappointment at how his potential has been wasted, with the weight of all his past failures, and with worry for his son. But he clings to the path he has chosen in the belief that it will lead him from this torment. One can actually see the dead look in Smith's eyes, the punch-drunk expression of one who is suffering, who is juggling so many burdens that his mind spills over with the effort, for whom a seemingly minor setback is a Big Deal. Smith gets it, and he makes us get it, too.
Incidentally, he could probably have been a stuntman or a professional athlete. He has had running scenes in many of his films to date, and in this movie he looks ready to set a new record for the 400 meters. Smith is a little too fit and energetic for a homeless guy who hardly sleeps and eats in a soup kitchen for much of the movie, but his running and carrying feats illustrate Gardner's bulldog tenacity, and how his own physical power and endurance aided him in achieving his ends. All I have to say is this movie is one of the best this year. I couldn't believe how good Will Smith did in this film. I also couldn't imagine a bone density scanner salesman lived a part of his life this way. Sleeping in a bathroom at a Subway station! On top of toilet paper! It made me feel good that I sleep in a bed at night! I do hope with an inspiring story like this, that he claims any upcoming awards.