Published Dec 19, 2008Will Smith teams again with The Pursuit of Happyness director Muccino for this weeper about a distraught I.R.S. agent who offers random acts of kindness to nice folks he doesn't know. It's also the kind of movie that critics say, "I can't reveal too much but..." and therein lies the fundamental problem with Seven Pounds.
As it opens, Ben Thomas (Smith) is a distraught dude, haunted by a life "shattered in seven seconds"; he wanders about flashing his I.R.S. badge at unsuspecting tax dodgers, feeling out their moral compasses until he finds people "worthy" of a gift he has to bestow. They include a blind man (Woody Harrelson) and a young woman with a heart problem (Rosario Dawson). At his side are a childhood buddy (Barry Pepper) who's unhappy about a deal he's made with Ben and a brother (Michael Ealy) who wants Ben to stop doing what he's doing.
Perhaps I watch too many "gotcha" movies - The Usual Suspects, the work of M. Night Shyamalan - but the structure of the film left me a) guessing what the "reveal" would be and b) expecting that the reveal would alter my perception of what's happened before. Turns out the reveal isn't that dramatic; it doesn't actually revamp any of the film's narrative and in fact it hampers the good work that Will Smith does in the lead role.
Because there's such secrecy about his past, Smith is forced to play the middle of the road, emotionally: not too grief-stricken, not too guilty, not too enthusiastic nor depressed. It stunts the emotional impact he has on these unsuspecting people's lives because the audience holds back its approval of Smith until late, just in case he turns out to be a bad dude despite his good intentions. And the reveal, personally, just made me angry.
But to people who don't withhold an emotional connection to the primary love story on display - between Ben and Rosario Dawson's Emily - Seven Pounds is more than a two-hankie weeper, it's half a box. Personally, I think the out-of-sequence narrative structure is not only unnecessary but actually undercuts the emotional impact, but my arguments were clearly drowned out by the chorus of sobs around me. (Sony)