Andy Bockelman: ‘Seven Pounds’ lacks true emotional power
December 27, 2008
Craig — The drama “Seven Pounds” is meant to be a feel-good film, but it comes off as more of a feel-OK feature.
Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS auditor on a mission. His objective, however, is not to find tax offenders, but rather people whom he can help. His criteria for assistance is strict, and he is only interested in assisting folks he believes truly deserve a second chance in their life.
In between seeking out potential candidates – including a meek blind man (Woody Harrelson) and a battered single mother (Elpidia Carrillo) – Ben comes across Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a young woman with a terminal heart condition. He quickly falls in love with her, and she with him, but this becomes a flaw in his mysterious plan.
There is no doubt that Smith is a good actor, perhaps even a great one. However, his talents are obstructed in projects that are not well-suited to his blockbuster status. Ben is not a role tailored for such a personality; although Smith performs as best he can, he rarely reaches the kind of indifferent loner traits that are necessary for the character.
Dawson is touching as Emily, despite the hackneyed “dying girl” routine she is given. Her attachment to her pet Great Dane – a breed known for a short lifespan because of weak hearts – is only part of the congeniality that Ben finds endearing.
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In fact, he is surrounded by such altruistic characters, from Harrelson as lonely, sightless pianist Ezra Turner to Barry Pepper as Ben’s cautious friend and lawyer, Dan.
The fault of the movie lies in its secrecy, or lack thereof – given the types of people Ben scrutinizes, it is not particularly difficult to fathom what he has in store, especially with the telling opening scene in which he announces his own suicidal intentions.
The flashbacks of Ben’s life that we see are painfully telegraphed and pointless in their frequency, especially once the denouement finally comes to confirm what we already knew. This is not to say that the film offers no warm, worthy moments.
Indeed, there are a number of poignant scenes that are truly genuine in their celebration of human goodness. This is, after all, made by Gabriele Muccino, the same man who directed Smith in the notable “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The difference is that “Happyness” had a straightforward story, while the latest Muccino/Smith team-up tries too hard to be creative when it doesn’t need to be.
It may as well be called “Seven Minutes”; as a short film, it would work very well, and the more powerful sections could be strung together for an awe-inspiring piece of art.
“Seven Pounds” asks more of its audience than it can reciprocate. Although its “Pay It Forward” categorization may inspire some nice thoughts within its viewers, it lacks the strength and artistic credence to really give the point much depth.