In 1981, San Francisco salesman Chris Gardner invests his life savings in portable bone density scanners, which he demonstrate to doctors and pitches as a over standard x-rays. While he is able to sell most of them, the time by between the sales and his growing financial demands enrage his already bitter and alienated wife Linda, who works as a hotel maid. The financial instability increasingly erodes their marriage, in spite of them caring for their soon-to-be five-year-old son. Chris is trying to sell one of the scanners when he meets Jay, a manager for Dean Witter Reynolds, and impresses him by solving a Rubik’s Cube during a taxi ride. When Jay leaves after their discussion, Gardner lacks money to pay the fare and chooses to run instead, causing the driver to angrily chase him into a station.
Gardner boards a train but loses one of his scanners on the way. His new relationship with Jay earns him the chance to become an intern stockbroker. The day before the interview, Gardner agrees to paint his apartment so as to postpone being evicted due to his difficulty in paying the rent. While painting, Gardner was seen by two policemen at his doorstep, who take him to the station, stating he has to pay for the parking tickets he hasn’t paid. Gardner is ordered to spend the night in jail instead, complicating his schedule for the interview the next morning. The next morning, he manages to arrive at Dean Witter’s office on time, still in his shabby clothes. Despite his appearance, he impresses the interviewers and lands an unpaid internship. He would be among twenty interns competing for a paid position as a stockbroker.
Gardner’s unpaid internship does not please Linda, who eventually leaves for New York City because she might get a job at her sister’s boyfriend’s new restaurant. After Gardner bluntly says she is incapable of being a single mom, she agrees that Christopher Jr. will remain with his dad. Gardner is further set back when his bank account is garnished by the IRS for unpaid income taxes, and he and Christopher are evicted. He ends up with less than $22, resulting in them being homeless, and they are forced at one point to stay in a restroom at a station.
Other days, he and Christopher spend nights at a homeless shelter, in the station, or, if he manages to procure sufficient cash, at a hotel. Later, Gardner finds the bone scanner that he lost in the station earlier and, after repairing it, sells it to a physician, thus completing all his sales of his scanners. Regardless of his challenges, he never reveals his lowly circumstances to his colleagues, even going so far as to lend one of his bosses $5 for cab fare, a sum that he cannot afford. Concluding his internship, Gardner is called into a meeting with his managers. One of them notes he is wearing a new shirt. Gardner explains it is his last day and thought to dress for the occasion. The manager smiles and says he should wear another new one tomorrow, letting him know that he has won the coveted full-time position and giving him back his $5 as he promised.
Fighting back tears, Gardner shakes hands with them and then rushes to his son’s daycare to embrace Christopher. They walk down the street, joking with each other. The epilogue reveals that Gardner went on to form his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm.
The writer of the movie is Steven Conrad. The screenplay is based on the best-selling memoir of the same name written by Gardner with Quincy Troupe. Pursuit of Happiness was directed by Gabriele Muccino. The film was made in 2006. It is an American biographical drama film.