ENTERTAINMENT/FILM/REVIEWS

A REVIEW OF… “SEVEN POUNDS “

I’ve been a fan of Will Smith’s since the early days. And who is prouder that he is one of the very few stars who can still open a movie and promise a big opening. It seems as if lately, however, Smith is doing some mid-life soul searching, trying to challenge himself beyond the funny, wisecracking hero. “Hancock” was a very good attempt at moving in a new direction for Smith, a unique approach to the superhero as anti-hero. “Seven Pounds” is even more of a departure and honestly it’s not easy for me to say exactly how I feel about.

I can’t sum up too much of the film without spoilers and since I won’t do that, it’s a somewhat confusing and condensed summary that follows. Will Smith is Ben Thomas who, in the very first frame, signals what is to come. In fact, the beginning is the end. Through an extended flashback, that itself has interior flashbacks, we see Ben on a mission to affect the lives of seven people he has selected including a blind pianist Ezra (Woody Harrelson) and a lovely woman named Emily (Rosario Dawson) who has a congenital heart condition with a rare blood type that gives her about a 5% chance of receiving a transplant.

The film is both a very unconventional love story and a mystery. We as viewers are given little snippets of information that do not all fit together until the very end. Much of it is telegraphed, yet to the extent that there is closure, it does not come until the very end. And perhaps that is the reason why I can’t decide exactly how I feel about this film. The closure is not satisfying, not in the least. It’s sad, tragic in fact , and even though I teared up, there was still so much that I did not understand, did not feel.

Perhaps it’s also because the major issues raised in the film have to do with tinkering with fate, playing God as it were. Ben seems to be making all the decisions for the people he’s chosen and neither they nor the audience understands why. This may come down to a combination of a slightly inept script and lack of strong direction because Smith does not appear to have much of an emotional core to draw from. We know he’s traumatized, but we still need to see a little bit of what is going on in the emotional world that he is unsuccessfully shutting out. We all know that the emotion always bubbles over no matter how hard we think we’re controlling it. But this is such a difficult thing for an actor to pull off and I’ll refer here to Ralph Fiennes current turn in the extraordinary film “The Reader,” as an example of exactly what I’m talking about. As Michael Berg, the victim of a very complicated and predatory relationship when he was a teenager, his pain is palpable, you feel it as you sit in your seat. Denzel Washington can pull this off as he did recently in “American Gangster.” With Ben, you might be left wondering why is he doing what he’s doing, what is he feeling?

None of this is to say that this film is not worth seeing, but it is a warning that it is difficult. I myself am dark and difficult and am therefore drawn to this sort of material. But because of what you are asking the audience to submit to, there must be an invitation for them to come in and feel what the main character is feeling. Rosario Dawson is outstanding as Emily, why isn’t she doing more leads? Oh, I know why, never mind. But she is skillful as the one who, like us, doesn’t understand this enigmatic figure who shows up on her doorstep.

Finally, I celebrate and support Will Smith’s movement into different types of roles. I’d like to see him work with some of our best directors, the ones who tease out some real vulnerability, like maybe the much too underutilized Kasi Lemmons (“Talk to Me,” ” Eve’s Bayou” ). Maybe Smith just needs a strong hand. I can’t wait to see that performance.

Seven Pounds opens today.

Will Smith (Ben); Rosario Dawson (Emily); Woody Harrelson (Ezra); Michael Ealy (Ben’s brother); and Barry Pepper (Dan). Directed by Gabriele Muccino; written by Grant Nieporte; produced by Steve Tisch, Will Smith, Todd Black, James Lassiter and Jason Blumenthal; director of photography, Phillipe Le Sourd; edited by Hughes Winborne; and music by Angelo Milli. Released by Columbia Pictures.

Dianne Brooks has been a film fanatic since youth and despite a temporary detour at Harvard Law, wound up teaching and writing about film at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a number of years. She published a number of scholarly articles on film, television and cultural studies. Dianne currently contributes to writemovies.com, politicalfemme.com and her site www.thefilmfiles.com. Her musings on movies will be featured regularly on UTC.


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Comments

December 18th, 2008 at 9:54 pm SERIOUS LEE says:

I’m checking this 1 out this weekend!

December 18th, 2008 at 10:15 pm Elsa Harkins says:

Why he always gotta have a nonblack gf. Last one he had that was a real blk chick was Regina King in Enemy of the State (great m,ovie btw). I’m sic of all the Eva Mendes, Rosarios, and Latina chick in Legend. WTF???

December 18th, 2008 at 10:42 pm twanna says:

But what is the flick ABOUT? Why won’t anybody say? Whats the big SECRET?

December 18th, 2008 at 11:54 pm kamalp says:

He ain’t made a good movie in a minute. Hancock sucked. I didn’t dig the one w/ his son too much. Legend was so-so. This looks like a cable movie. Wus up Will?

December 19th, 2008 at 10:16 am Jane Kennedy says:

@Elsa I’m with you I remember he said in Hitch that they didn’t want him to have a black wife since he’s so universal I still don’t get it though

December 19th, 2008 at 10:32 am nicq says:

will smith does 3 huge movies a year….must b nice!

December 19th, 2008 at 10:47 am lilmamma86 says:

as long as he can look like that during movies..il watch em!

December 19th, 2008 at 1:30 pm lolalove says:

he is so ballin out of control he could afford to try to gamble and take on new things. He’s the biggest star ever that’s amazing he’s black and beautiful

December 19th, 2008 at 1:47 pm thelma says:

This one has been on my rader for a while I’m there tomorrow morning for the first matinee. I loves this man and I’m proud of his accomplishments!

December 19th, 2008 at 2:20 pm Mr.Fantastic says:

looks good

December 22nd, 2008 at 6:06 pm moviecriticiam says:

the movie is about an IRS agent who has a plan to save the lives of seven people. Can’t really say much or I’ll give away the movie. It’s worth watching. As for the lead being by a latina….who cares…its a movie and the best lead role went to Rosario Dawson…. She really plays a great role in this movie. You heart really fells the realness from each character.
Word of advise… bring tissue with you!

December 27th, 2008 at 5:01 pm Dianne Brooks says:

SO WHAT DID EVERYONE THINK OF THE FILM??? I’m dying to hear if you thought I was too hard on it, or not tough enough?

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