Seven Pounds

Movies Reviews Will Smith
Seven Pounds

Speed Racer

Release Date: Dec. 19

Director: Gabriele Muccino

Writer: Grant Nieporte

Cinematographer: Philippe Le Sourd

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson

Studio Information: Columbia Pictures, 78 mins.

I could tell you what happens at the end of Seven Pounds, tell you what Will Smith’s character is up to, and tell you what all the coy narrative suppression is covering up, but you’d never believe me. “A jellyfish?” you’d ask, screwing up your face in that way that you do.

Speed Racer

A jellyfish, indeed. The filmmakers seem to think he’s only a little odd, but actually Ben Thomas (Smith) has gone around the bend. He wears a nice suit, carries a briefcase, and stalks people all day and night, especially Emily the heart patient (Rosario Dawson). He opens up a big smile and flashes his IRS credentials whenever he hits a roadblock, as if that should grant him carte blanche to stand mysteriously in people’s hospital rooms, stare at them across crowded spaces, or weed their gardens. Since he’s played by Will Smith, we know he’ll turn out to be good—probably even selfless—once we understand his motives, but the film spends an hour or two digging him into a deep ditch of oddity that I’m not sure any explanation could really justify.

For instance, he keeps a jellyfish in an impressive 40-gallon cylindrical tank that he hauls around to whatever crummy motel room he may occupy. The guy is clearly on some kind of stalking-based mercy mission, some kind of jellyfish-centered financial assignment, some kind of guilt assuagement arrangement. But the film just won’t tell us what it is until the last minutes of the movie. By then, will we care?

Some of my favorite films reveal their secrets gradually, and I love them for it. The Son by the Dardennes and this year’s Ballast by Lance Hammer drop the viewer into worlds where history hangs like a shadow over the present, but that history isn’t spelled out right away. These films harness the viewers’ natural curiosity and let us glean the events of the past through casual observation, just as we might if we saw these characters on the bus or overheard their phone call.

Seven Pounds, by contrast, actively withholds information artificially, with flashbacks that end too soon, with bread crumbs tossed out to string us along. As a result, the film builds up an unstable dependence on the moment of revelation, when we’re supposed to be blown away, crushed, devastated, when we’re supposed to reevaluate everything that came before, like The Sixth Sense. But instead we discover that the concept is so loony it almost seems to have been chopped up and stylized solely to hide its stupidity.

I’m not sure what personal reservoirs Smith and Dawson drew from to create a couple of marvelous, earnest performances, in spite of Emily’s failing heart, in spite of the stingin’ fishes, in spite of Woody Harrelson’s disturbing eyes and gaping mouth. I can’t imagine the inspiration came from this script. I only wish director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte had come up with another reason entirely to put these two likable actors together. They don’t need the games or the invented pity.

Seven Pounds is among the dumbest prestige films to vie for an award in this season of half-baked Oscar contenders. It’s a waste of talent, a waste of time, and a waste of 40 good gallons of water.

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