Friday, April 10, 2009

Seven Pounds: Grade C

Seven Pounds (2008)
Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson. Director Gabriele Muccino.

Will Smith is aging well. The lines in his face make him look distinguished, and he can still manufacture that dazzling smile. He is an IRS agent who, improbably, goes around to people’s homes, offices, and hospital beds to hassle them about their tax debt. Along the way, he encounters and eventually falls in love with a woman (Dawson) with a bad heart who only has a month too live. Cue the violins! This is a set up for the most maudlin of melodramas, right up there with ghost lovers and reincarnation stories. As the girl gasps and faints toward her destiny, Smith continues to visit a motley selection of debtors for unfathomable reasons, doing things that are not motivated by his character. We get flashbacks to suggest a great tragedy he is trying to forget, but instead of turning to gin, he drowns his sorrows in tax collection? None of it makes sense and it is hard to take the character or the story seriously.

However the developing romance was engaging because Smith and Dawson give such interesting performances, despite the weak, unrealistic dialog. Harrelson also shines. Good acting raises this disaster of a story up to average. Sets, costumes, and camera are high quality, but the story is a fishnet with too many holes to catch a genuine emotion. Ultimately our questions are resolved in a plot turn that ties up as many loose ends as a jellyfish has tendrils, but the ending is no more believable than what has come before, and is so crassly sentimental that I just shook my head in disgust when the bell rang for me to cry. There is a serious social theme brought forward at the end but only as a gimmick. It would have been a much better movie to tackle that theme straight on and dump the ridiculous redemption story, which was incoherent, implausible, and badly told.

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