Two films, both about the relation between adulthood and identity more generally, responsibility, careers and the contingencies of life.
The Pursuit of Happyness is a sickening movie, possibly the most sickening thing I have ever seen. The dimension of the film about a fellow striving for a better life for himself and his son is absolutely inspirational; it captured my own hopes and carried them along. However this joyous affirmation of a dream was fundamentally flawed. The dream the fellow has is to become a stock broker. Why? Because he saw some guy get out of a Ferrari one day? WTF! Because everyone around him at this moment looked ‘happy’ to him? Why does he want to become a fucking cog in the very social machinery against which he has struggled so valiantly? I really can not understand the monumental contradiction of this. The parable that features in the film as a joke of the man drowning (refusing the assistance of two passing boats because he is waiting for God to save him, when he drowns and sees God he asks him why he didn’t save him, God tells him that He sent two boats…) is apt. We have no boats and the benevolence of God is inverted into the cruel desire of the market. Not unlike the Epicurean release from ‘death’, the main character stops drowning simply by starting to wave. He is waving and drowning at the same time for most of the film. To people in the ocean: “Hey, don’t drown, just wave!”
This is why A Night in the Museum is a much more successful film. I originally read it as an allegory for George W. Bush’s presidency, of a bumbling mildly-bellicose and slightly sad fool brought in as the nightwatchman and then it hits the fan as ‘history’ comes alive again (you know, cause of the whole “end of history” bullshit). Anyway, but the ending retrieved the film from this precarious position. The main character, Larry Daley, settles on taking ‘any job’ so he can provide some stability for his son. His ex-wife has apparently remarried… a bonds broker! (Wtf is the difference between a bonds broker and a stock broker?) Oh, the stupid conservative family unit needs to express stability onto every relation which it might have with the world. Therefore, Daley gets to be a nightwatchman at the museum. After all the climatic sub-plot resolution Daley gets to keep his job because of the intrigue that has been created in the museum by the city’s punters. He is basically an immaterial worker producing interest or buzz about the museum. The film ends with Daley standing over a whole room of partying museum exhibits. There is no hint at all in the film how Daley and his ex-wife could’ve ever got on. She appears to have had her head surgery installed up her ass, and any charisma he may have once had has been dulled by half a lifetime of apparent failures.
What I appreciate in this film is because it is almost the inverse of The Pursuit of Happyness while generating the same outcome. Both films explore adulthood for males through the figure of the father and what it means to take on the world. Daley basically resigns himself against the whole hyper-responsible-broker persona respresented by the other main male figure in his son’s life, this I can identify with.