Posted: 04/26/2003

 

Pursuit of Happiness

(2001)

by Del Harvey



Miss Gish is radiant as ever in this sweet and tender updating of an old-fashioned romantic comedy.


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MTI Home Video releases the romantic comedy, Pursuit Of Happiness, on VHS and DVD May 20th.

The heart-felt romantic comedy stars Frank Whaley (Chelsea Walls, Pulp Fiction, Swimming with Sharks), Annabeth Gish (The X-Files, Double Jeopardy, Nixon), Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity, Interstate 60, Sweetwater), Cress Williams (Providence, Nash Bridges, ER), Jean Stapleton (You’ve Got Mail, Michael, All in the Family) and Alex Hyde-White (Gods and Generals, Catch Me If You Can, Pretty Woman). The film was directed by John Putch (BachelorMan, Intrepid, TV’s Grounded for Life) and written/produced by John Robert Zaring (Nervous Ticks, Men of Respect), with Alex Hyde-White also producing.

Ad executive Alan Oliver (Frank Whaley) has always been on the fast track in life and in love. He’s about to trade in his present job in Los Angeles for a cutting edge dot.com job in Seattle, with enough perks to blot out the bad weather.

Feeling like he’s finally got a handle on his life, Alan returns to work at Conrad Advertising, only to discover that his boss Lorraine (Jean Stapleton) has booted Alan off his main account, at the request of the celebrity spokesman, baseball star Chad Harmon (Adam Baldwin). Co-worker Paul Kiley (Alex Hyde-White) is just the messenger, and neither Alan nor Paul can tell Lorraine what’s going on.

By the time Alan makes it home, things get a whole lot clearer. He arrives at the same time as the moving van. His live-in girlfriend Janet (Dawn Eason) doesn’t want to live in anymore. She wants more too, but it doesn’t include him. She’s got a new guy, and when she tells Alan that it’s Chad Harmon, he’s starting to catch on. If Alan’s the guy on the fast track, he’s just been derailed.

Veterinarian Marissa Kiley (Annabeth Gish), Alan’s best friend since kindergarten, has always been there to catch him. But this time, what Alan fails to notice is that she’s got a heartache of her own. Alan’s friend Paul, Marissa’s husband, has just leveled a blow to their marriage that she might not be able to accept. So it’s particularly hard for her to give Alan the sympathy that he expects—especially when he steps right back into the routine failed relationship pattern of falling for the wrong type: young and bouncy Tracy Jennings (Amy Jo Johnson).

The key to his happiness is right in front of him. His job is to open his eyes and recognize it. As he keeps coming back to the dog-eared photo of two kids stuck on his refrigerator—blood brothers Alan and Marissa—whose hands and hearts have always been intertwined, will he finally realize what lies between them?

This little story is all about the acting, which makes director Putch one of the smarter low-budget directors out there. Whaley has just the right quality of frailty and perserverance, and Gish has that absolutely radiant spirit that shines through the worst of times. Together, this trio unites to make Pursuit of Happiness a positive and fun little movie. And that’s a real joy in this age of overblown cinema.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He is a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.



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