The newest Will Smith/Gabriele Muccino collaboration, Seven Pounds, stars Smith as a do-gooding IRS agent. Are the critics' opinions of the film as mysterious and surprising as the plot? As always, after the jump.
It's a conclusion more prosaic, and more appalling, than anticipated, and much as I'd like to spoil it, I won't. (Just pay attention to that very first scene, which is more straightforward than you might expect.) Like Hancock, Seven Pounds is a sloppy film, shot through with acute problems of structure, logic, and pace, which the producers evidently thought could nevertheless coast on Smith's well-documented marketability. But Seven Pounds is something worse as well: a dour, morally beclouded film that confuses generosity and grief, self-abnegation and self-annihilation. Yes, it comes prettily wrapped as the package of holiday uplift it fatuously imagines itself to be. But this is a present best left unopened.
But overall "Seven Pounds" is too heavy-handed and maudlin to be comprehensible, let alone moving. The real shocker is that not even Smith can rescue it. Smith has been giving consistently appealing, if not outright terrific, performances in movies for years now; even if he seemed a little lost in the strange-but-interesting "Hancock," he somehow kept it from completely wobbling off its axis.
The movie is pretty unabashed about that all-but-corny sentiment: Each of us has something to give. Smith, on the other hand, wears the mantle of a martyr (which is what his character really is) less easily. That is to say, more believably. His Ben is charismatic but diffident, tortured and confident at the same time. He's a mess. And we buy it, whole hog.
The film's Italian director does achieve in his second American outing a pleasing blend of Hollywood professional sheen and European sensitivity to character details and nuances. It will be interesting to see how he maintains that balance if he chooses to move through the Hollywood system.
Whether one entirely rejects the project’s high-minded game-playing or falls right into the filmmakers’ quasi-spiritual trap and is thereby helplessly reduced to a jellyfish-like state at the end, it’s impossible to claim that Muccino and Nieporte lack the courage of their convictions, or faith in the moral value of their contrived little sacrificial fable.
Nor can it be said that Smith, whose most recent box office barn-burners, “I Am Legend” and “Hancock,” seemed consciously designed to set the star apart from the rest of humanity, shies away from the saintlike status conferred upon his character. Indeed, he embraces it in a way so convincing that it proves disturbing as an indication of how highly this or any momentarily anointed superstar may regard himself.
Muccino and Co. aspire to the kind of seismic "a-ha" you'd discover in an O. Henry short story. Instead, "Seven Pounds" feels closer to the sentimental button-pushing of "Pay It Forward."
Seven Pounds is the kind of holiday film that seems perfectly suited to these economic times, with desperate people in dire need of cash, medical intervention and proper housing, and a conflicted hero who decides almost grimly to improve their circumstances. Concerned with how people overcome trauma and tragedy, the film focuses on universal themes of loss, forgiveness and redemption
While it doesn't break any new ground or provide any revelations, Seven Pounds is unabashedly emotional and cautiously hopeful. It's the feel-good movie for these feel-bad times.
In Seven Pounds, an unintentionally ludicrous drama of repentance as an extreme sport, a humorless, impenetrable Will Smith plays a guy who's really rich, really apologetic about mistakes he's made in the past, and really, by any sane moviegoer's measure, kind of nuts. (He may or may not be an IRS agent; he definitely keeps a deadly jellyfish as a pet in his seedy motel room.) Poor Rosario Dawson looks lovely but lost as a beautiful woman with a real-not-metaphorical failing heart; Woody Harrelson looks ready for an SNL sketch as a gentle, blind telephone operator and pianist. Do not attempt these acts of atonement at home
I haven't even hinted about the hidden motives in this film. Miraculously for once, even the trailers don't give anything away. I'll tell you one thing: I may have made Ben sound like an angel, but he is very much flesh and blood, and none of his actions are supernatural. He has his reasons. The director is Gabriele Muccino, who also directed Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness." He is effective at timing the film's revelations so that they don't come suddenly like a U-turn; they're revealed at the last necessary points in the story. Some people will find it emotionally manipulative. Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it's done well.
Coming off his extraordinary work in “I Am Legend,” here Smith gives a horrendously disappointing performance. All of Ben’s grief is presented in the most externalized, indicating manner possible as Smith jumps back and forth between inert and manic, pausing occasionally for the shedding of one single tear, the male version of Demi Moore in her heyday.
The only saving grace of “Seven Pounds” is the luminous Rosario Dawson, who seems incapable of ever being artificial onscreen. She takes an underwritten character in an overblown movie and creates a real person, finding the grace notes and even elevating Smith out of ham-handedness in their scenes together. Dawson is one of the more underappreciated artists in contemporary American cinema, and if we have to sit through as turgid a vehicle as “Seven Pounds” to give her an opportunity to show her stuff, then so be it.
Frankly, though, I don’t see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?
And I wish I could spell out just what that was, but you wouldn’t believe me, and the people at Sony might not invite me to any more screenings. So instead of spelling out what happens in “Seven Pounds,” I’ll just pluck a few key words and phrases from my notes, and arrange them in the kind of artful disorder Mr. Muccino seems to favor (feel free to start crying any time):
Eggplant parmesan. Printing press. Lung. Bone marrow. Eye transplant. Rosario Dawson. Great Dane. Banana peel. Jellyfish (but you knew that already). Car accident. Congestive heart failure.
Smith does, in fact, spend the majority of the film furrowing his brow and looking concerned; his mission and tragic secret are obvious, and his actions are ludicrous (does an IRS man really interview people to find out if they're good people so he can give them a break on their audit… or show up in their garden pulling weeds?).
'Seven Pounds' opens in theaters today, nationwide.