Published on August 15th, 2013 | by Allan Brown0
Movies Based On A True Story….Or So We Thought #1
We don’t ask a lot from our movies but sometimes a film comes along that takes on special credence and extra meaning especially when it’s been marketed as ‘based on a true story’. The simple thought of knowing someone has lived through the events being played out on screen adds a weight which in turn helps encapsulate it’s audience. However if you’re going to tag a movies Based On A True Story all we ask is that you make the story, you know, kind of true.
The Pursuit of Happyness
The Hollywood Version:
Chris Gardner is an honest, caring and loving father who works every hour god sends in an attempt to provide a stable and secure future for his young son. However, despite all Chris’s efforts and endeavors he finds himself in incredibly challenging financial circumstances that ultimately result in himself and his toddler son becoming homeless.
One day Chris under the watchful eye of an employee at “Dean Witter” solves a “Rubik’s Cube” puzzle in record time and then apparently passes the only test needed to qualify a man to become a stockbroker. He toils for months, sleeping in subways and churches with his son at his side, but in the end it all pays off when he claims the one and only opening at “Dean Witter”, crying tears of joy on the streets of San Francisco.
In reality …
Gardner did get a chance to show his stuff in the “Dean Witter” training program (though I’m sad to report his acceptance had nothing to do with solving a colorful cubed puzzle). However, as the more honest Auto Biography version of this story points out, he apparently wasn’t quite the father the film made him out to be.
First, he was so focused on getting a job and earning his first million that for some time he didn’t actually know where his son was for the first four months of the program.
Chris, Jr. was apparently living at this point in time with his mother, Jackie. Did I also mention that the child had been conceived when Gardner was still married to another woman?
In addition, instead of being arrested just before his big interview due to parking tickets as the film suggests … well, it seems that Chris was actually arrested after Jackie his wife accused him of domestic violence.
Chris did indeed get his life turned around after landing the job as a broker. There were just some things in Gardner’s past that they couldn’t quite bring themselves to have “Will Smith” do on screen. Like selling drugs (as Gardner admits he did briefly), or doing cocaine with his mistress, with little doses of PCP tossed in for good measure.
Adulterous sex? Cocaine? Neglecting your child for months at a time? It says something about the man that he didn’t drop the pursuit, despite having pretty much found happyness already.
The Hollywood Version:
Ben Campbell is a math genius excelling at MIT, home to some of the brightest young minds on the planet as well as a smart custodian. He catches the eye of Kevin Spacey, appearing in all of his glory, who recruits young Ben for the MIT Blackjack Team. At first, it all seems harmless enough, as they play just to learn the age-old art of card counting.
Once they get good enough, Spacey whisks the team off to swingin’ Las Vegas to give their new talent a try in a real world setting. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned (obvs), and after a severe beating at the hands of Cowboy Curtis, Ben learns some harsh lessons about life and love before heading off to Harvard Medical School.
In reality …
If there’s anything we can learn from 21, it’s that Hollywood won’t give an Asian man a starring role unless it calls for someone who can do karate while being subjected to the barrage of tripe that comes out Chris Tucker’s mouth.
In fact, 21 gives us perhaps the greatest whitewash in recent Hollywood history–a broad, sweeping stroke of Caucasian across the majority of the cast.
The real MIT Blackjack Team was almost totally Asian, but you’d never know that from the film. Even Kevin Spacey’s character was based in part on an Asian professor, who has been known to dress like a woman in order to sneak into casinos. Apparently, a transvestite Asian maths genius isn’t as interesting as Spacey in the “just make sure the check clears” stage of his career.
But hey, at least they did cast a pair of Asians as members of the Blackjack Team. Naturally, in sticking with current Hollywood trends, they were made into geeky sidekick characters, while the white kids handled all of the heavy intellectual stuff. Not since Mickey Rooney’s performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s has Hollywood treated Asians with such respect and dignity.
Next time I will name and shame 2 more movies Based On A True Story….Or So We Thought