In 2006, director Gabriele Muccino teamed up with Will Smith to create The Pursuit of Happyness, one of the better films of the year - and one that garnered Smith an Oscar nomination. Two years later, the two are back for another collaboration: Seven Pounds. A drama shrouded in mystery, Seven Pounds looks to repeat the critical and box office success of Happyness, but doesn't quite accomplish that feat.
Seven Pounds is a movie that most people will go and see without have the slightest idea as to what the movie is about. The trailers have been intentionally vague, and mainly feature Mr. Smith looking upset and running through the rain. The movie turns out to be much more complicated than that, of course, but much of it is gimmick more than anything else.
The movie is about a man named Ben Thomas, who for some mysterious reason, is seeking out seven strangers to give them a helping hand. An IRS agent that was once an aeronautics engineer, Ben befriends a woman who is on the verge of congenital heart failure and in desperate need of a transplant. As they get to know one another more, Ben starts to develop feelings for her, even though he has secrets he can't possibly reveal. Others who benefit include a woman suffering from domestic abuse, a blind man and a kid dying of leukemia.
Seven Pounds is a touchy feely kind of picture disguised as something edgier, not unlike an Alejandro González Iñárritu film. In reality, it is a very simple plot tossed and turned around to appear more complicated, and this approach works both in the film's favor and against it. In both the marketing for the picture and the film itself, Muccino hides the end goal of the story, essentially establishing a "surprise" climax that keeps the story elevated above Pay It Forward kind of fare. The first half of the movie benefits from this secrecy as you try to figure out exactly what's going on.
However, it's not that hard to figure out the surprise ending, as the truth is revealed early on in a not-so-subtle way and suggested several more times throughout the course of the film. What's disappointing is that Muccino's "clever" editing, which cuts up the movie and throws its narrative out of chronological order, eventually caves in on itself. The basic story isn't interesting or clever enough to sustain such a technique, as seen to more success in many of previously mentioned Iñárritu's movies such as Amores perros and 21 Grams. It appears that Muccino got so cut up with telling the story in a creative way that he forgot to establish a creative story. In other words, if you took the plot and told it in chronological order, the movie, as currently written, doesn't sustain itself.
To be fair, Seven Pounds is not a bad movie. It looks nice, is well acted (when Will Smith isn't making odd faces) and is engaging enough, but when the mystery begins to dissolve, so will your interest. The second half of the movie is a bit dull; you know what is coming, and yet Muccino draws the inevitable out. Seven Pounds is okay enough, but Oscar-worthy it is not.
Seven Pounds might be worth seeing, but not until DVD. Those who will be most blown away by this movie are the people who can't figure out even the easiest of surprise endings. You know who you are.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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