I agreed to review Seven Pounds because I believe in Will Smith. Sure, we’re talking about the Fresh Prince here, but when I look at Will Smith, I don’t see the adolescent jokeabout from television. I don’t even see the part-time Grammy-winning quasi-rap artist. When I look at Will Smith, I see an incredibly gifted actor with the potential for great range. Will Smith can be brilliant when he wants to be.
Unfortunately, I think in Seven Pounds, he wasn’t trying that hard. I have never been thrilled about this movie. From the second I saw the trailer, I’d had the idea that the movie wouldn’t be that good. So I judged the trailer. And why not? Trailers are our first impressions of the film. It’s how the studios try to sell the picture to us. If we’re able to dish out the ten dollars and reserve the right to see the picture based on trailers, why shouldn’t we also be able to pocket our cash and reserve the right to stay away when we see the same trailers? This particular trailer moved slow and featured only weak, vague notions of what the film might actually be about.
So, I dreaded the day I’d have to see it. With some popular Oscar buzz around it, that day seemed like a dire certainty. And here I am, writing the review just hours after sitting through the film’s near-grueling 118 minutes. The film is about Ben Thomas (Will Smith), an IRS agent, who, under a set of circumstances, has the ability to change the lives of seven other individuals. However, this isn’t what the film is about. It actually plays out more like a romance between Thomas and Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a woman with burgeoning heart failure, interlaced with clips of Woody Harrelson wandering blindly down a street. No, literally: he plays a blind guy. From what I can tell, that’s the extent of his character’s… character.
This love story isn’t Hitchcock’s “macguffin.” It’s downright deceit. And the seven people Will Smith is supposed to help? Well, they’re mostly absent. We hear about them once or twice, see a couple of them on screen, but in all, they’re entirely unimportant to the film. Considering the seven people in need of aid were the only semblance of plot in the advertising for this film, their lack of importance in the story itself is unforgivable.
Let’s look at how the film is put together. I heard huge praise from the director, Gabriele Muccino, for his earlier effort, The Pursuit of Happiness, especially regarding the pacing: that film never relented and kept the audience generally engaged. Sadly for the newest effort, the film moved on at an agonizing pace (just like the trailer), giving frenzied clips of the accident that put Ben Thomas on his path for redemption. The incidences of actual substance are too few and far between. This picture could have easily been twenty or forty minutes shorter, and that would have been a step up. It’s a matter of zeroing out on all the slow scenes in which Smith does nothing but look troubled (which are plenty).
The film is put together in a ramshackle order. It began with a complete lack of direction (again, just like the trailer) as Thomas wanders through town, looking at papers and talking to sick people while the audience is left to ponder what the hell is going on. As the picture progresses, it loses most of its semblance to the original plot as Thomas decides to fall in love, subplots are introduced to push along the narrative and then abandoned once their purpose is served, and the director seems to lose all his perception of what the film was supposed to be.
Getting back to Will Smith for a few seconds: I’d like to note that he let me down. Smith used this opportunity to frown perpetually and look conflicted. He relies, instead, on his supporting cast to give the variation in this film with a great performance from Dawson and a bit role from Harrelson.
Now, I have to tell you why I can’t give this film a bad review, despite it’s obvious and aforementioned faults. I have to note that the general public seemed to pay no notice to these faults. Keeping with the whole “review for the demographic” dictum, I’ve taken into consideration how the audience reacted to this picture. I’ve been told that I’m hyper-critical and insensitive, but I had no emotional payout as the film’s supposedly emotional climax hit like the world’s slowest flying bottle-rocket. I felt nothing as people on the screen started to cry (mostly because these people were the unresolved and undeveloped subplots I mentioned earlier). However, everyone else did. There were long sobs and wet eyes. Even the huge guy sitting next to me managed to squeeze out a few tears.
So, I ask myself: “Did the film succeed in what it set out to do?” I assume this was supposed to be a heart-hitter, and people cried, so I have to answer yes. This, paired with at least one small twist that even I hadn’t seen coming and an insanely creative means of dispatching a major character, I can’t give this film a bad rating and keep a good conscious, because I feel that the audience genuinely enjoyed it, that it actually touched them. Some movies, after all, are critic proof, and some critics, sadly to say, are emotionless crones. So, the people liked it, and for that, I’ll render it a favorable judgment. However, these same people who liked it will likely be wondering this season how much those little Oscar statuettes weigh. My guess is: not Seven Pounds.