Will Smith received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness.
The real Chris Gardner who went from homelessness to millionaire apparently believed that Will Smith was actually a bit of miscasting. I am inclined to agree with the real man for a few reasons. Number one is the role does not really seem to be the right type of role for Smith. Smith an actor who does mostly use his natural charisma for his roles, which does work okay for lighter types of roles. There are a few times he does not really even use that, such as Ali which results in basically a complete failure. His natural charisma is rated differently by many, I think he does certainly have charisma, but it is not anything astonishing.
In this role he actually should have tried to avoid his Will Smithisms. He does not exactly do this for most of his performance and I think that is a bit of a problem in this performance. I feel he usually simply plays the character in more of a superficial way most of the film. I find he mostly just acts it as a Will Smith performance, and I find he does not really get into the heart of the character for most of the time. I think this is particularly in any scene where he is doing something involving the stock broker firm. For some reason I always saw every scene as a little bit false, as Will Smith working hard at his job opposed to Chris Gardener. I just never could see him as the real man, I always saw him as Will Smith. He never was able to override this, fact especially in these scenes stopping his performance from ringing true.
He has some slightly better scenes involving when he is not working toward his prospective job. Still though in scenes where he is yelling at people who cause him trouble, I still felt there was a certain falseness, and I simply never believed him in the role. I want to address that this is not because he is Will Smith, great actors with great personal charisma, can avoid this, but Smith does not do this effectively here. The part just demands more realism which Smith does not bring to the role most of the time. He is not awful, just simply does not meet the needs of the role.
There are a few scenes where he is a bit better. These are almost all scenes with Chris's son played by Smith's real son. They actually do work well together and obviously do have a natural chemistry. Still I felt I was seeing Smith, and his son, but these worked better for the film overall. His two big scenes involving tear jerking on Smith's part which he does, well enough I guess, but never in any sort of amazing way. I would say he does a good reaction when he learns he has earned his job, his slight display of tears of happiness is well handled. But call be harsh, but for some reason it seemed just a adequate technical feat opposed to a truly emotional reaction. As I said he is not terrible, just simply he never seems to be right in the role.