Ben Thomas is a man on a mission. In "Seven Pounds," Ben (Will Smith) is trying to find seven willing people for the biggest project of his life. He is an IRS agent who uses his connections to locate these individuals. He knows their histories, and so he knows the things they need. Ben wants to know, though, if these people qualify for inclusion in his project. Ben, in fact, has enlisted the help of his attorney friend Dan Morris (Barry Pepper) to make sure his actions are legal. Ben has unique opportunities for the seven people included, and reasons for his actions are known only to Ben and Dan. We learn, though, that a personal tragedy is a main motivator for Ben.
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The movie focuses primarily on three of Ben's acts. One involves Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carrillo), a single mother in a bad situation. A second involves Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson), a telemarketer and music teacher with a disability. The main story involves Ben and Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a young woman who runs a business from her own home. She's in arrears on her taxes due to an illness that has required her to be a frequent patient in the hospital. Because of her illness, she's also not accepting any new business. When Emily starts asking the personal questions that Ben has been shown to resent, the very reserved and defensive man lets down his guard. Ben has a goal to achieve, but cannot reach that without having these people involved.
"Seven Pounds" reunites Smith with his director from "The Pursuit Of Happyness," Gabrielle Muccino. "Pursuit" can be seen as a feel-good film. Not only is "Seven Pounds" an anti-feel good film, but it is also one that makes little sense. Neither Connie nor Emily, who meet Ben as an IRS agent, ask many questions of Ben when his inquiries go beyond financial matters. During the film, we come to understand that Ben's quest involves redemption. He chooses seven acts for a specific reason, but it never occurs to him that if he so chose, he could do so much more. We also understand that Ben is a man who is greatly distressed. He has even cut off contact with his brother (Michael Ealy). Dan expresses concern about him, yet he fails to do the right thing by Ben. If Dan were truly concerned, he would never have consented to assist Ben. Just because Ben can outshout anybody doesn't make him correct. The screenplay by one-time TV writer Grant Nieporte not only doesn't make sense, but is ultimately very manipulative. Some people might cry real tears over Ben's situation, while others might cry because they paid good money to see this irritating and irresponsible film.
Muccino doesn't help his own cause with his sluggish pace. He keeps viewers wondering far too long what will become of Ben. About an hour into the film, I stopped wondering where the film was going and wished it would get around to answering the central question. Part of the problem is that he tips his hand about Ben much too soon. Another part of it is that some of the seven stories are scarcely developed. Ben, it seems, is not consistent when it comes to research. Some people became beneficiaries with no questions asked. While "Seven Pounds" has no bad performances, Dawson is the only standout in the cast. Illness has put Emily at a crossroads nobody should face. Dawson's performance is more dignified than the rest of the film. She is ready to accept whatever life brings her, whether Ben helps her or not. It's not that any of the other characters are any less in need, but the film doesn't allow us to know as much about them as it does about Emily.
I'm sure that "Seven Pounds" has generated interest simply because of Smith's participation in it. I won't spoil the film or its key points, even though I dismiss this film as reprehensible. Smith may be a star in his box office prime, but this film is a major misstep for him. If anyone knows a person like Ben Thomas, nobody should play the role of enabler the way Dan Morris did. Ben has a willingness to share of himself, but he has gone about it in entirely the wrong way. Ben's method, one could say, allows him to play God. It is impossible for Ben to turn back time, but he is not thinking clearly as he sets his agenda for atonement. In his attempts to be selfless, Ben is, in reality, very selfish.
The thing that disturbs me most about this film is that one day, we will read or hear about a real person who will make decisions like the one Ben Thomas did, and that person will cite "Seven Pounds" as inspiration.
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Movie Mood: None of the Above
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Duration