Seven Pounds (2008)
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino
Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)
One of the most-discussed aspects of Seven Pounds is its emotional clout, and there's good reason for that. It is the biggest driving force behind everything that goes on here. As viewers, we spend around 90 minutes without really fully knowing what is going on, and we do so to get to the emotional apex we're lead to. While this conclusion is somewhat gratifying, and while it does tug at the heartstrings for sure, it's clear Muccino could have trimmed the fat and made the proceedings a bit less over-the-top.
Seven Pounds begins by showing Will Smith's character, Ben Thomas, huddled in a bathroom while calling 911 to report his own suicide. Things only get stranger from there. We learn that Thomas is an IRS agent who takes special interest in seemingly everyone he meets. Thomas visits all sorts of places to meet those who have tax problems, whether it be the hospital or their own homes. But what we notice about Thomas isn't that he's dedicated to his job, but that he seems dedicated to doing extravagantly nice things for people he doesn't really know. However, Muccino confounds us by also showing Thomas in a much different light, such as when he phones a meat company to complain about bad pork. Thomas winds up berating a blind salesman named Ezra (Woody Harrelson), and even calls the man's handicap into question. By the end of the phone call Thomas has asked Ezra if he's "ever even had sex before." So as you can see, in the earlygoing, it's very difficult to know what to make of Thomas.
One of the recipients of Thomas' charitable work is Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a young woman with heart problems whom Thomas gives an extension on money she owes to the IRS. What Thomas doesn't count on is that he falls in love with Posa and even her dog, Duke. He finds himself drawn to her, even if he knows he maybe shouldn't get so close. Several times it's very evident that Ben wants to kiss Emily, but he holds back. Seven Pounds continues forth in this manner, drawing us in and pushing us away, not really pulling back much of the curtain covering what's really going on until the last possible moment. We get hints, but we aren't likely to piece them together until much later.
The professionalism with which Will Smith handles the portrayal of Ben Thomas is absolutely what drives home the film's emotional climax. Smith wears the aches and pains of his character so, so well. Each big moment gives him another chance to shine, another chance to present Ben as a terribly conflicted man who is clearly headed toward something bigger through the film's duration. Rosario Dawson is quite good as well, as she makes Emily someone we truly like. She shows Emily as a scared woman who wants to share her life and wants to give her love, even if she may not have long to give it.
As I said in the opening paragraph, though, this movie's extremely solid build-up should have probably been given an ending devoid of well, bullshit. While I won't divulge the details here, I'll go on record as saying that the actual events that occur are mostly effective, but they could have been presented in a much more subtle, much less bombastic manner. This doesn't affect the film to a great degree, but just enough to frustrate me. What was a truly engaging and interesting movie shifts into an emotional wreck. And that's fine. But for the love of God, did everything have to get so huge and meaningful? Over-the-top emotional pomp aside, Seven Pounds is particularly arresting, and you certainly won't get bored. Add to that the performances of the two primaries and you have yourself a film well worth spending your time on.