“Seven Pounds” Is a Bit Too Heavy

22 12 2008

seven-pounds-poster

“Seven Pounds” 2008

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper

Seven Pounds is a film with a startling revelation, unveiled in the last five minutes of running time. The problem is that the slowly unfolding mystery, which occupies the first, say, hour and fifty-five minutes of the film, is vague and disorienting, and the revelation is unnatural and bizarre. If Ben Thomas (played by Will Smith) were guilty of a horrible crime or betrayal, perhaps we might find the outcome fitting. If we truly believed that his life and spirit were irreparably damaged, we might understand his decision.

Smith gives a predictably compelling performance as a man deeply wounded by the loss of a loved one. He plays an empathetic IRS agent, which seems a deliberate contradiction, but a single scene in which he treats a physically handicapped person with coldness and cruelty leads us to believe that he has not always behaved with such compassion. Here’s where things get tricky: The timeline of the film is thrown off by the fact that the entire film occurs as a flashback in which Ben experiences further flashbacks. The scene in which Ben delivers the benevolent blind man a ruthless tongue-lashing seems so wildly out of character that we wonder is we have witnessed a scene from some former life, and the rest of the film serves as Ben’s atonement following an unknown transformative incident.

I did not dislike this film. Actually, I found it intriguing and terrifically acted. Its disorienting development was necessary to preserve the mystery, and despite the confusion, the characters were convincing, and sufficiently kind and sympathetic to warrant Ben’s charity.

The flaws in this film were initiated by Ben’s final selfish (or selfless, depending on your prerogative) act, which thankfully took very little of our time. We know from the tone of the film that the conclusion will be startling and grave. But it seems unnecessary and unfair that Ben, the embodiment of a man devastated by loss, would choose to inflict similar pain on the kindhearted people who love him.

♦♦½

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