Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seven Pounds

“An IRS agent with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.”

The trailers were vague enough for this film, and I had seen so few, that I was able to go into this movie without any expectations. It was the 2nd movie I’ve seen in two years, the other being I Am Legend, that was saved by casting Will Smith. If anyone less entertaining and engaging than Smith was cast in either movie, they would have been terrible.

Seven Pounds could have come off as completely cheesy crap, if not for the performances. It is almost the Patch Adams of 2008, seeming like a good film at first, until you re-watch it and realize that it is overly sappy schlock. Luckily, Robin Williams is not trying to change seven lives here.

Will Smith and Rosario Dawson have surprisingly endearing on screen chemistry. Dawson was sassy and sweet; I liked her in this more than anything I’ve seen her in. Even so, the film focuses too much on them, and not enough on the overall process that Thomas is going through. Smith gave another great performance, but there should have been more for him to work with. I would have liked to see some of the darker side of what Ben Thomas was going through; we only get glimpses of him dealing with the guilt that set him on his journey.

A scene at the very beginning shows exactly where the movie is going, but there are several quick flashbacks, as if the filmmakers are trying to disguise the sequence of events. The plot unfolds very slowly at first. If you pay attention, the clues come together very gradually. Most of the audience still seemed shocked by events toward the end that to me didn’t seem so secret by that point.

The name itself is still somewhat puzzling. Many assume it refers to the weight of one specific thing (highlight for Spoiler- the human heart), but a little research will tell you that one thing doesn’t weigh anywhere close to 7 pounds. Others are interpreting it as the accumulated weight of things Ben Thomas is giving back, but considering the weight of one of those items (spoiler- a beach house), that makes no sense. The best explanation I’ve found is a reference to “The Merchant of Venice”-he is giving back a symbolic “pound of flesh” to each of the seven people he has decided to help, to redeem himself.

I thought Seven Pounds might be the first Oscar-nominated movie I’ve seen before the awards in years, that didn’t happen to be a blockbuster everyone saw. The story itself is coherent and somewhat interesting, but its execution is not Oscar worthy. I would rather see Smith or Dawson win an acting award on a better film, in memorable roles.

Overall grade: 4

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