Customer Reviews: The Pursuit of Happiness
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on October 2, 2009
If you enjoy the period details of the Sixties in Mad Men, you should check out this underrated (and largely overlooked) film by Robert Mulligan from 1970. Better than any movie I can think of, it captures the mindset of the generational gap of the Sixties. It is remarkable how the hero rejects the phoniness of the "Establishment" for its lack of honesty. Today's political climate and attitudes are so much more evil, full of lies, greed, and power grabs, that it makes 1970 look like paradise.

The product description is inaccurate. Pay no attention to it. The beauty of this film is in the details, the posters, the activism, the look of New York, the casual racism and sexism, the idealism of a sort no one has these days... Even the aerial shot of the Statue of Liberty is something that couldn't be filmed today, post 9-11.
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on February 26, 2012
I saw this on the bottom half of a double bill, the main feature being "The Anderson Tapes." It played for a week in L.A., then disappeared for several years until it showed up on commercial television. A lot of good people in it. Look for Robert Klein as one of those college radicals who puts his hands to his ears and shakes his head when he is "blown away" by anything "far out" and Wow!"

Glad to see it on DVD, but the "artwork" is horrible; it looks like a cheap exploitation film with the tight close ups; the VHS copy looked a lot more dignified. Why don't the studios just put the original theatrical poster on the DVD case? These "artists" with their "interpretations" of a film's content always seem to miss the point of the film. Let them create oversize pictures of Big Macs; that way, their junk will be appropriate and justified.
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on July 6, 2005
Michael Sarrazin in a fine performance plays a young man who accidently kills a pedestrian with his car. He goes unjustly through the court and prison systems. His attitude is taken into account more than his actions. The radical mood of the movie is typical of its time. Barbara Hershey plays a supporting role as his pretty girlfriend. Ruth White gives a somewhat funny performance as his bigoted grandmother. 2.5 out of 3.
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Ignore the somewhat mocking suggestion of camp by the "Martini Movies" logo -- this is a fine movie about the American state of mind circa 1971, especially for a young man no longer sure of anything, other than his disdain for & despair over the phoniness of society. As portrayed by Michael Sarrazin in an understated but subtly intense performance, Billy Popper, unwilling scion of old money, has reached the point where even protest no longer seems worthwhile. The sheer absurdity of a life built on lies & empty appearances has worn down his soul.

And then his life is altered forever, as he accidentally runs down an old woman in a driving rainstorm one night. Suddenly his entire future is on the line -- but he seems to be the only one who doesn't much care, seeing this as one more accident in a universe that's apparently an accident. He's something of a more naive American cousin to Camus' Meursault, in a way.

I'll say nothing more about the story, except that it constantly goes in directions I didn't expect, wonderfully subverting the tired cliches of the standard Hollywood plot. Ably supported by a lovely Barbara Hershey as his girlfriend & Robert Klein as a slightly loose cannon of a best friend, struggling to negotiate the labyrinth of family & the law as represented by Arthur Hill, E. G. Marshall, Sada Thompson & Ruth White's acerbic firecracker of an obsecenely rich grandmother, Billy finally arrives at the only answer for him. It's one a lot of us will identify with, especially if we've had enough & too much of contemporary society ourselves.

It never made much of a splash, and it's been pretty much forgotten over the decades -- but here's a film that's honest about life in 1971, while managing to speak quite eloquently to the present as well -- recommended!
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VINE VOICEon August 28, 2014
This DVD is a lovely film with a great cast and crew. The writing is a little weak though. This film was Ruth White's final appearance in film. She died in 1969 from cancer at only 55 years old. She is a little too young to be the Popper matriarch but does a fabulous job. Barbara Hershey is fine as the Jewish girlfriend of a WASPY college man played by Michael Sarrazin. There are plenty of familiar faces in the film like David Doyle, Sada Thompson, Robert Klein, Arthur Hill, Rue McClanahan, William Devane, Barnard Hughes and others to look out for.

Still this was Ruth White's final hurrah and appearance in what was a short film career. She did leave a rich legacy of acting in largely character roles in top films. Ruth White was the main reason for me to purchase this film and it's finally on DVD. A short forgotten film from the early seventies filmed in New York City about a young idealistic man. I enjoyed the film as it had some dark and light humor in it.

Personally, I believe the film should have been dedicated to the Memory of Ruth White who gave her final and memorable performance as Mama Popper. I wished the DVD featured more behind the film scenes or personal perspectives. Perhaps the film was forgotten along the way but brought back now. Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see it.
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on May 2, 2014
Having seen this movie shortly after it was released, I was in the Army serving in South Korea at the time. As I was very young at that time, and away from home for the first time, the influences of my older college educated and drafted friends I was serving with had significance as I became better read and independent from my family. Something besides the beautiful Barbara Hersey in this movie moved me. Being somewhat idealistic, the movie plot engaged me more than any other I viewed (and we had movies every night), This movie was one of the turning points in my political thinking. As I became more open minded and progressive in early adulthood, the conundrum William Popper faced made me have to think about the law, justice, the establishment and the consequences of doing the right thing. I had never forgotten this movie and VHS taped it a number of years ago. I watched it a couple nights ago and could still find the same emotions I had as a 19 year old. The VHS tape was adequate but I am going to buy the DVD because I still love the movie and will watch it again. Perhaps it is nostalgia, but I found the scenery and the music as well as the acting to be excellent.

Stephen Courts
May 2, 2014
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on April 21, 2011
Saw this as a second feature on a double bill back in the 70s and it stuck in my mind. A bit dated but certainly the story is still relevant - a young guy (the "rebel") stands up for what he believes and gives up a privileged life as the price for his beliefs. Amazing to see Michael Sarrazin and Barbara Hershey when they were so young! As long as you're not expecting Shakespeare this movie provides a fairly entertaining 90 minutes.
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on June 29, 1999
Somewhat interesting story about a man who's life suddenly turns upside down. Barbara Hershey is hot!
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on September 25, 2010
good movie if you like the older classics - good acting - not on the top of the list but worth buying if the price is right.
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on October 17, 2009
Not him personally, but whatever happened to his career? He seemed like such a fine actor in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" and "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud." He's fine in this film too but once again, the 70s version of the "rebel" who won't conform to society (or society that won't conform to him) seems a little dated. One just has to view this film in the proper perspective in order to enjoy it.
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