31 May 2009

Movie Review: Seven Pounds


D-

Seven Pounds
2008, 123mina, PG-13
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer: Grant Nieporte
Cast includes: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper
Release Date: 19th December 2008


“Seven Pounds” is an uncontrollably mawkish attempt at Oscar bait, a picture that the majority of participants should have known better than to sign up for. The sentimental and somewhat sprawling nature of the plot might have enticed a few people into thinking they where partaking in something special, but the one dimensional characters, unbelievably dull opening 90 minutes and saccharine feel to the production might have warned them differently. This is a truly bad piece of work, a film more likely to pull on your last nerve than your heartstrings.

The plot is multiple shades of relentlessly boring, peppered with cryptic messages and characters that the filmmakers never attempt to make us understand. Granted director Muccino is going for the surprise ending, but even amidst all the mystery and soulful gazing, not one person makes sense before the final 15 minutes. That probably means that the closing twist works, but it makes the rest of the project an insufferable bore. Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS agent auditing seven people, all of whom he has taken a keen interest in. Chief amongst those is Emily (Rosario Dawson) a woman with constant heart trouble, and a regular fixture at the hospital. The two slowly form a friendship and when Ben isn’t helping or fawning over Emily, he’s in his rented Motel room planning something. We’re not sure what it is, but thanks to flash backs we know Ben’s life has been stung by tragedy and the few that are aware of his intentions seem fairly upset by the potential consequences. So what Ben’s got coming, has to be pretty major.

I’m fond of Will Smith as a performer and always have been, but that doesn’t give him free reign to go off and make guff like “Seven Pounds” whenever he feels like it. After the breezy fun of “Hancock” Smith has clearly decided to once again prove his acting credentials and take up a darker project, re-teaming with “The Pursuit of Happyness” director Muccino in the process. Difference is “Pursuit” was a good movie with great performances and an emotionally rewarding plotline, “Seven Pounds” is happy to cheat the audience into tearjerker mode. The cast is filled with talented actors but unfortunately the horrible character conception prevents a single person from handing in a decent performance. In the lead Smith is blank and dour, but it’s a one note effort from the most bankable man in Hollywood , there is no variety or range in his interpretation of Ben and thus little to engage with during the movies prolonged runtime. Rosario Dawson is equally underdeveloped as a potential romance with medical issues and other than that no other actor gets more than a few minutes worth of screen time. The likes of Woody Harrelson and Barry Pepper also feature and have parts integral to the story, but Muccino puts little to no focus on them resulting in a film that is basically a dull portrait of a boring central performance.

“Seven Pounds” obviously wants to make audiences sob and cry, and it might achieve those aims but not for the reasons intended. After just a quarter of an hour I was nearly asleep and the picture never livens up, carrying out its pretentious and bleak plotline for over two hours. “Seven Pounds” is quite possibly the most snore inducing picture of 2008, not necessarily the very worst (though it’s a barrel scraper for sure), but probably the dullest. In order to make this sort of movie work someone needs to tell Muccino that keeping proceedings interesting is vital, because right from the start he seems to overlook that factor. The one thing that audiences can usually count on from a Will Smith picture is charm and charisma, even that has been milked dry from “Seven Pounds”.

From a technical stand point the film at least manages to be sporadically intriguing on a visual level, the cinematography is top class and there are a few instances of well crafted imagery and atmosphere. The inclusion of a Jellyfish in the plot is likely to trigger thoughts of a Zucker brother’s movie (i.e ridiculous) but at least Muccino’s stupid storytelling device is well shot and unique on an artistic level. The musical score also succeeds but these are the only real praises you can sing of “Seven Pounds”, hammering home its failure as a film striving for emotional resonance and audience empathy.

The twist ending does improve the picture a little; it’s still indigestibly cloying but at least adds a little depth to the central character and makes the whole experience vaguely logical. It doesn’t repair the awful 105 minutes that precede it and even in its own right is far from perfect, but at least Muccino answers most of the questions that his movie asks the audience during its runtime. The findings are as silly and emotionally bizarre as the various questions, but be thankful, at least they are answered in some sort of semi-reasonable fashion.

“Seven Pounds” is the sort of film usually associated with the Holiday season and it’s no surprise to find out that’s when it was released. I actively skipped the movie in theaters and after a DVD viewing am only too glad that was the case, without a pause button on a remote control this beast would be impossible to sit through. “Seven Pounds” is a dreadfully bland and self righteous picture that fails to provide engaging characters, interesting story developments or genuine moments of emotion. I can only advise you skip it over and that tearjerker junkies don’t bother, you won’t get your kicks from this sentimentalist stinker, that’s for sure.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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