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Seven Pounds

Movie title: Seven Pounds (2008)
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: An IRS agent has a secret as he embarks on a journey of redemption.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Will Smith stars in the dark and heavy-handed drama Seven Pounds. You’ll understand the meaning behind the title when you see the film, but here’s a hint: it has to do with human anatomy.

Smith’s character Ben Thomas is unlike anyone he has played before, an unhappy, moody, mechanically talented IRS agent who collects jellyfish and has a big heart. The character is…weird…just plain weird! But playing him, Smith doesn’t strut his physical prowess, and his charisma is downplayed. I still think he could have changed his facial expressions and mannerisms and overall come-off to better fit his bizarre character, but that’s me being picky. Will played the part successfully—without his usual high-rolling “I’m a star and I’m going to knock this movie out” quality.

But there is a problem in the writing. The script made his character divided. Is he crazy? Is he grieving? Why the erratic behavior? What redemptive path is he following? When the film finally answers these “why” questions, some will start to see a problem (like I did) with the fact that his quirkiness doesn’t fit his history. The way Ben Thomas is portrayed is not consistent with the reasons for his being the way he is.

As far as acting goes, Smith’s was only fair. Woody Harrelson’s blind character Ezra Turner I didn’t like at all. How often are people with disabilities grown, soft-spoken, spineless virgins who go through life timidly cowering to their circumstances? But, disappointingly, that’s the way they made him. Why? Was there a need for that? The best acting came from Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa (sounds too much like “Post,” but I’m not fretting it). I liked her. I believed her. I felt her. Hers was the only good quality acting in the whole film.

Amidst slow plot progression and a wanting love scene, the movie kept your attention. It’s dark, it’s dreary, it’s depressing, and even creepy, but it keeps you watching. Mellowdramatic? You better believe it is. One plot-twist midway through may not seem like enough. But you watch the flawed film out of a consuming curiosity at what Ben Thomas is going to do next. He doesn’t act like an agent. He goes around with a chip on his shoulder, threatening to audit people – or the opposite of a chip on his shoulder – throwing compassion at people left and right. Ah, but again, it holds your attention!

Is it predictable? Yes, to most of us, but you keep watching because you want to find out why. What’s the secret? The specifics don’t come out until the end. When they do, the mellowdrama sledgehammer gets brought out and damn near ruins everything. I didn’t feel as much as I was supposed to feel. In fact, I said out-loud: “Oh My God!” For me, it was way, way, way too much and barely believable. The gagging depths to which it sinks are…well...deep!

There’s life, love, plot elements coming together in a non-remarkable way, deaths, and taxes (literally). The movie calls out to the drama addicts among us, the non-conformists, anyone fascinated with the prospect of facing a grim reality. Will you like it? I really don’t know. Should you see it? Your call. C-

(JH)

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Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith “Ben Thomas,” Rosario Dawson “Emily Posa,” Woody Harrelson “Ezra Turner,” Michael Ealy “Ben's Brother,” Barry Pepper “Dan,” Elpidia Carrillo “Connie Tepos,” Robinne Lee “Sarah Jenson,” Joe Nunez “Larry (Hotel Owner),” Tim Kelleher “Stewart Goodman,” Gina Hecht “Dr. Briar”
Genre: Drama

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