Thursday, January 01, 2009
Written By: Grant Nieporte
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson
My Rating: 8/10
Seven Pounds is one of those films that seems to divide people dramatically. It may be called emotionally manipulative, unrealistic and overly sentimental. It may also be called profound, Shakespearean, and an interesting examination of the human spirit more in-depth than most other films dare to go. It seems to me that all of the above are true. The film is overly sentimental and tries its damnedest to make you cry every 15 minutes or so. However, it is also a really beautiful story based around a man’s search for a redemption he can’t ever really give himself, inspired by Shakespeare’s “pound of flesh” in Merchant of Venice (hence the title).
It is difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away. Will Smith plays an IRS worker named Ben who appears to be visiting random people and testing them emotionally. The audience pieces together over the course of the film exactly what Ben is doing and why. This all builds to a wonderful denouement which will either make you queasy or deeply moved.
There is an argument to be made that the premise is a bit silly and could never really happen in real life but isn’t this why we go to the cinema at all? Gabriele Muccino has that European lack of respect for reality and I truly believe that if this had been a foreign language film, its outlandish premise would be less jarring for the audience. Muccino seems to have found his perfect partner in Will Smith. In their previous film together, The Pursuit of Happyness, they also managed to make an utterly schmaltzy and unabashedly emotionally distressing story into something that seemed to touch people deeply. With Seven Pounds, I felt that they had achieved their goal of telling the story, making it a character study, a love story and a thesis on human guilt and frustration. Will Smith goes darker here than he’s gone since Six Degrees of Separation and it suits him. He and Muccino must be commended for making his relationship with Rosario Dawson’s character so desperate and unsexy and tragic. It really adds to the frustrated mood of the film and the slow and awkward build-up of the relationship was brave, knowing that the box office won’t like that both stars look like death, even at their most radiant.
This is a daring film, an interesting film and if you let yourself get swept away in the story and try to remain uncynical (easier for some than others) you will certainly get something from it, especially towards the end where there is one of the most chilling suicide scenes ever committed to celluloid. It’s probably not for everyone but it is a skilfully made film with yet another great Will Smith performance. Give it a chance.
Charlene Lydon 01/01/09