Seven Pounds Review
After 'The Pursuit of Happyness' Will Smith teams up with director Gabriele Muccino for the second time in 'Seven Pounds'. It appears Will Smith has not yet given up on the challenge of making a serious movie.
Once again he tries to deliver a performance worthy of more serious note but it's made all the more difficult this time around by a rather more challenging story. Seven Pounds actually proves to be quite a challenged movie for a number of reasons.
When you look at this guy's career you've got to give Will Smith some major credit; he's taken every opportunity that's come his way and used every one as a springboard of some sort or another to further his career. Quincy Jones brought him into the TV studios from whence Hollywood beckoned soon after. Of course Will Smith is now such an instantly recognisable figure the world over and many of you will also probably know of him from the days of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air'.
'He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper'
Prior to all of this though he was actually quite a talent in other ways. The 'Fresh Prince' was initially better known as the sidekick of DJ Jazzy Jeff. The pair of them hailed from the streets of Philly and became highly successful in the hip hop music business. Not only did he have a refreshingly different approach to the microphone but his buddy Jazzy Jeff was also a legendary scratch DJ. The pair of them churned out some fantastic tunes in what later came to be known as hip hop's most purple of eras.
So, for a guy with a background like that it has not come as a great surprise that he has consistently fallen into light hearted, jovial and quick witted roles with consummate ease. He is undoubtedly immensely talented but I will forever find it hard to take him that seriously. It's not that he can't act, because he most certainly can, but I think that there is a line to be drawn with respect to his character placement. Unfortunately he's done no favours in Seven Pounds, a film lumbered with a story so benign that it doesn't actually have that much to offer him.....or anyone else for that matter.
Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS agent. Not the most charming of jobs by any stretch of the imagination, his job involves him having to pay unforeseen tax collection visits upon various individuals. You would have thought the purpose of the visits was singular? Not quite, as there's a twist in this here film.
It all kicks off with him in a desperately bad mood, laying into a salesman on the other end of the telephone. In actual fact it's quite disturbing in the way he takes it out on the poor old soul who turns out to be a blind fellow. Little time is wasted in making it apparent that he's not a happy chap. A series of flashbacks highlight the fact that Ben Thomas does indeed have some troubling psychological problems and all are soon identified as the teasers to the 'big twist' in the storyline.
The whole concept of this approach though is ill judged and you could say fatally flawed right from the start. Sometimes trying to be inventive and experimenting in juxtaposing a storyline within the context of a movie can fall flat on its face and it has certainly done so here. You have to be careful to keep the audience engaged or else it soon becomes a mess. Surely, the idea is to not reveal the ending until the very end ? What's the point of telegraphing it pretty much right from the beginning?
Seven Pounds revolves around Ben Thomas's interaction with seven other characters. There's his brother (Michael Ealy), a care worker named Holly Apelgren (Judyann Elder) and George Ristuccia (Bill Smitrovich) who's a hockey coach. All of whom appear to have a strong bond with him. The film however tends to dwell upon the blind tele-salesman Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson), Emily Posa ( Rosario Dawson), Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carrillo) and a young boy named Nicholas (Quintin Kelley).
As Ben acquaints himself with the characters in question it's quite clear that he's doing all of this for very particular reasons. None of those are for tax purposes I can assure you. As I say the story is projected from far too early on and it'll soon dawn on you the thinly veiled reasoning for it.
Irrespective of how popular Will Smith is, to be fair to him he's dealing with a bizarrely obscure, dead duck of a story here. It's a slow burner of a film, one that tries your patience as it strings itself together and I have to warn you that it's hard work.
Emily Posa is self employed and designs greeting cards for a living. Unfortunately she also suffers from a congenital heart condition. Whilst settling her overdue taxes are the least of her worries he nevertheless insists on paying her a visit at the hospital. Invariably they begin to see more of each other and when she gets discharged they get to know each other far better. Her heart condition is prescribed to become terminal so any kind of romance developing between the two is ultimately a forlorn one.
As I say it won't be long before it all clicks into place and when it does it may make some of you feel rather uncomfortable. I know how I felt about it. The subject matter here is a little too controversial and perhaps too far off the beaten track for a film such as this to command universal and popular appeal. It's made worse and drawn out by the fact that the film almost immediately loses its way as a decently told story.
Will Smith puts in an altogether melancholic performance be it a tad too over dramatic for my liking. Where the role calls for deep inner reflection his conveyance is almost always of depression. He's clearly not yet developed the finer dexterities of being able to deliver the depth of subtleties required in such roles.
Woody Harrelson makes a decent enough and thought provoking effort, be it all too brief. You rarely get to feel any sense of attachment to this Ezra character of his, which is a shame. In fact there is very little character development of any sort including any of the other characters deployed throughout the film. It's very difficult to gauge any emotional pull or have feelings when the film itself leaves you rather detached from them all.
Much of the movie is taken up by the courting that goes on between Ben and Emily. The problem here is it skews the story into a lop-sided flump of a film. Whilst there's nothing wrong with the romantic aspects per se, the whole episode between the two is far too lengthy and detracts waywardly from the film. I felt that the whole movie lost its sense of balance when it got overly bogged down here. Cardinally, it also added very little to the final impact of the film.
As the end unfolds what was already painfully obvious is untold in even more yawn stretching and predictable fashion. The sense of emotion was lost on me but that's not to say it would also be on you. Perhaps this film needs a few viewings to appreciate it but I'm afraid one was more than enough for me. The only real draw to this film that remains is probably Will Smith himself and even then you maybe disappointed that he's not the guy you all know and love.