By Ryan Dewerth.
When I first saw the trailer, I must say, I wasn’t too impressed with it. It didn’t really feel like a movie that I would be moved by despite its overt advertising as a moving film. I then watched an interview with Will Smith on Jay Leno and from the way they were talking, it really seemed like they were onto something here. Now, I’m not sure if it was that which finally pushed me to see this, me wanting to see as many 2008 films as I can in order to create a ‘Best of’ year end list, or the fact that I’ve been listening to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s album, Homebase, almost every morning for the past week. (Man, that’s such a great album.) Whatever it was, I went into it with neither high nor low expectations.
We enter the film with a shot of Ben Thomas, played by Will Smith, on the phone with 911. He calls for an ambulance and reports a suicide. When the paramedic asks who the victim is, he says in a crisp, decisive voice, “I am.” We then cut to a scene where Thomas gets into contact with a blind meat salesman, Woody Harelson, and pretty much verbally assaults him in what could perhaps be one of Smith’s darkest scenes he’s ever done. Afterwards, immense regret and sadness come over him and along with the suicide introduction; we are left to ask “Why?”
The premise of the film is Thomas going around to seven different strangers, the salesman being one of them, and evaluating their life situation. He then has to decide whether they are really are deserving enough for his help. He utters to one old woman, “It is within my power to drastically change his circumstances, but I don’t want to give that man a gift he doesn’t deserve.” as he attempts to deem the worthiness of another man.
Much of the film, perhaps too much of it, relies on the viewers’ lack of knowledge. From the opening scenes and throughout much of the film, we are left almost completely in the dark as to what Ben Thomas’ motives are and what has happened in the past that has left his face scarred with sorrow. We are forced to ask ourselves why he has brought a jellyfish into his cheap motel room and why he’s even in the cheap motel room to begin with. I can understand why director Gabriele Muccino, also responsible for The Pursuit of Happyness, did this; to keep audiences in their seats because frankly, it doesn’t have a whole lot of story going for it other than a theme that’s been done plenty of times before.
The one concrete thing that remains here is Will Smith’s portrayal of Ben Thomas, a man who’s haunted by his past and searches for redemption. While I may not enjoy all of Smith’s films, I can definitely admire him as a person. Having an album out by 17 and winning a Grammy at 21. Then going on to do a hit television show and following that up with a career in the film industry, he’s definitely made a name for himself. With one of his most complex characters yet, Smith displays a whole spectrum of emotions that are nothing short of believable.
There was so much that could’ve been more thoroughly examined and so many ideas that should’ve had more screen time but were pushed into the background as a victim to the over-attention paid to the romance between Thomas and Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson). While still a pretty decent relationship, there were far more interesting aspects to Seven Pounds that didn’t receive as much notice as they should have.
Overall, Seven Pounds is a decent film about an attempt at redemption masked by acts of altruism. His motives aren’t explained until the very end and those motives are perhaps one of the few things that carry the viewer’s interest throughout the film. Now that that’s settled; seven pounds of what?