Seven Pounds

Cast:
Will Smith as Ben Thomas
Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa
Woody Harrelson as Ezra Turner
Michael Ealy as Ben’s Brother
Barry Pepper as Dan
Elpidia Carrillo as Connie Tepos
Robinne Lee as Sarah Jenson
Joe Nunez as Larry
Bill Smitrovich as George Ristuccia
Tim Kelleher as Steward Goodman
Gina Hecht as Dr. Briar
Andy Milder as George’s doctor
Judyann Elder as Holly Apelgren
Sarah Jane Morris as Susan
Madison Pettis as Connie’s daughter

Summary:
One of the most depressing movies I have seen in some time and almost impossible to review without revealing its secrets, “Seven Pounds” fails on several fronts – most glaringly could very well be the way the movie is being marketed by the studio.

Story:
Smith plays Ben Thomas, a mild manner IRS agent with a secret past that is slowly eating him alive. A tormented Ben begins seeking out seven good-hearted people who are in need, whether it is an ailment that has them down or they are just down on the luck and too proud to ask for help. He moves to help them as a way to make peace with himself and exorcize the demons of his past.

“Seven Pounds” is rated PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

What Worked:
I want to say up front that I am going to try hard not to spoil this for anyone interested in seeing it – a tall task to be sure. If this review seems short in comparison to others, now you know why.

The performances in “Seven Pounds” are sound. Will Smith does an admirable job as the distraught Ben and it is a good thing because his character dominates the movie. There is hardly a scene in the film he is not in. Rosario Dawson is always a treat to see on the screen and her heart troubled turn as Emily is no different. The rest of the cast is competent, but mainly fringe players. Woody Harrelson is an interesting choice for the uber-polite blind meat salesman Ezra, but he does the role justice. What little comedy wedged into the gloom of “Seven Pounds” is offered up by Joe Nunez’s Larry, the motel clerk. I’m afraid that’s where the notable good stuff ends.

What Didn’t Work:
If you are interested in seeing “Seven Pounds,” I’d be curious to know if you think you know what it is about, because the ad campaign for the film doesn’t help would-be viewers one lick. Before I saw the movie, and going by the TV ads, I thought it was some sort of supernatural-type film about someone who had the magic power, time machine or some such that could be used to alter a chosen reality… for a price, of course. This is not that film.

“Seven Pounds” is a depressing, scatter-shot love story about a man who had everything and lost it all in an instant and who has basically lost his will to go on. There is no big Shyamalan-style twist at the end of “Seven Pounds,” even though it appears the studio is trying to protect one with its vague ad campaign and media embargos. If you haven’t figured out exactly what is going on in the movie inside of the first half hour, then you haven’t been paying attention. I guess that’s what director Gabrielle Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte are counting on. When the final truth is revealed it is just what you think it is. There are two mild surprises at the end of the film – one has to do with Ben’s relationship with his brother and the other has to do with Ben’s aquarium. There… that is as spoily as I’m getting.

The flashback/flash-forward style of storytelling, which I am usually a fan of, makes the first half of “Seven Pounds” fairly boring to watch. You see an obviously tormented Ben running interference into strangers lives to determine if they are worthy of his assistance. That’s about it.

There is a romance between Ben and Emily that given his circumstance is a little off-putting, but is inserted as sweet foreshadowing to the sap that is piled on at film’s end.

Having said all of this, I didn’t hate “Seven Pounds,” but I didn’t like it either. It is an enigma of a film that suffers from a poor screenplay and flawed execution. The movie feels flabby and fuzzy, and the best of these type films are usually more taut and precise. Even if I loved it, I would have a hard time recommending anyone go see it just because of the colossal downer it is. Equally awkward is the timing of its release. A lot of folks tend to get blue around the holidays, and “Seven Pounds” is certainly no cure for that.

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