“Seven Pounds” — the latest film from the world’s biggest movie star, Will Smith - is an impressive piece of storytelling. The performances are first-rate, the mystery at the heart of the picture unfolds slowly and (for the most part) believably, and the direction is handled with a steady precision that keeps the plot moving and audiences engaged.
The ending, however, will divide viewers. Some will shed tears, others will be outraged. It’s a bold artistic choice, but one of questionable morality.
Mr. Smith plays Ben, an IRS agent with more on his mind than audits. He appears to be more interested in whether or not citizens are good people than in their ability to pay the government what they owe.
But how good is Ben? As the movie opens, we see him calling up a blind telephone operator, Ezra (Woody Harrelson), at a steak-by-mail distribution center. After picking up on the fact that the phone jockey can’t see, Ben rips into him, mercilessly taunting him in order to provoke a reaction.
Later, we see him questioning the director of a nursing home about his finances. After the miniaudit, in which we learn that a man named Stewart Goodman (Tim Kelleher) needs a transplant, Ben asks one of the home’s residents whether Stewart is, in fact, a good man. “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,” he tells the old lady.
What is his power? What is the gift? The answers to these questions unfold slowly over the next 1 1/2 hours as we learn more about Ben, his family and the dark secret in his past that has driven him to the awful decision he is forced to make as the movie closes.
Along the way to completing his quest, Ben falls in love with Emily (Rosario Dawson), a graphic-design artist with a mountain of medical bills, no viable business and a big heart. Literally: It’s enlarged and on the verge of failure. Without a transplant, she will die.
Starting to see the pattern?
Mr. Smith’s performance is outstanding, marking a return to the pathos we saw from the desperate father in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Gabriele Muccino directed both pictures, and he seems to know how to wring the best out of Mr. Smith.
The supporting performances also are impressive. Miss Dawson’s wide smile and wider eyes bring a lightness to the screen even though you know she is burdened by her illness. In addition, Michael Ealy’s brief turn as Ben’s harried, panicked brother strikes a particularly important note as the movie progresses and Ben’s plan becomes clearer. The audience needs to see how the remnants of Ben’s family will react if his plan comes to fruition.
No spoilers of said plan here, other than to say it is morally dubious and unfair not just to Ben, but also to his loved ones, old and new.
Title: “Seven Pounds”
Rating: PG-13 (Thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality)View Entire Story
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