Weighing in at a very long two hours, Seven Pounds has certainly set itself up to be this year’s heart wrenching opus of personal forgiveness and redemption. It also sets the stage for Will Smith to once again prove that he’s, gulp, one of the more accomplished actors of my generation.
He is Ben Thomas, a matter of fact man with an agenda. Sure, you want to know what it is, but I’m not going to tell you. What I will say is it takes more than half the movie for director Gabriele Muccino to get to even thinking about hinting to what it is. What we know initially is he wants to kill himself — but maybe he doesn’t as he is alerting a 911 operator of his plans. Via a flashback, we find out what led him to this moment.
And through it all we see Mr. Thomas is a deeply troubled man with convictions that are foreign to most. In one scene, he berates a blind meat salesman on the phone named Ezra (Woody Harrelson) with hard hitting insults that caused me to wince in discomfort. In another, he reaches out to Connie (Elpidia Carrillo) an abused Mexican woman and offers her and her children shelter from a boyfriend who beats her incessantly. In yet another, he causes his childhood friend Dan (Barry Pepper) to emotionally breakdown while insisting that he keep his word and do something to or for Ben that no man or woman should have to do. It’s a bizarre emotional roller coaster, that few would want to stand in line for.
But in the midst of it all, he meets Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a beautiful young lady with a heart condition. At first he tries to remain standoffish not offering to her a rhyme or reason as to why he has befriended her. But she’s having none of it — if he wants in, she does too. Love unfolds where none was expected or wanted. Is he saving her or is she saving him?
The success of Seven Pounds lays strictly with the believability of Will Smith and his being able to convince the viewer that Ben believes what he is doing will truly bring him salvation. Relying on his strong performance from such movies as The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith is able to comfortably juggle the many hats this role forces him to wear. It would have been very easy to slip up and make Ben a calloused, unlikable person, so Will deserves a bit of praise for his characterization. Likewise, it doesn’t hurt that Rosario Dawson puts on a powerful performance herself. She skillfully conveys strength and vulnerability — two overwhelming emotions sure to arise when one is faced with the gut-wrenching knowledge of one’s imminent demise. Watching them break down each others walls as they slowly meander down the path of intimacy was a treat and it was presented as naturally as a love story can be done too.
But, I can’t help but wish the movie was a bit shorter. There are more than a few moments that added very little to the overall presentation and would not have been missed had they been left on the cutting room floor. I’ll also add that Seven Pounds puts forth an idea that requires some introspection and may cause viewers to think, “What the hell was that all about?” While I wasn’t necessarily a part of that group, I know I asked myself a few pointed questions at the film’s conclusion that I would have preferred to not have.
And oh yeah, a quick warning to the men going to see this with their significant others: BE CAREFUL. There are some tear-jerker scenes that could make Attila the Hun well up and cry. Hide some tissues in your jacket pocket, there’s a damn good chance you’ll need ’em.