Seven Pounds – A Movie Review

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May 062009
 

Seven Pounds PosterBen Thomas is an IRS agent (?) with a fateful secret who embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.

Genres: Drama and Romance; Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.; Release Date: December 19th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Robinne Lee

Directed by: Gabriele Muccino

I watched this on DVD a week ago. Last week when I was catching up on movie reviews, I basically forgot to write this one.

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice the central character demands the payment of a pound of flesh from those who are in debt to him. The ‘pound of flesh’ refers to an onerous debt, one that is either unable to be paid (but demanded), one that is far in excess of the amount owed, or one in which the payment is set to adamantly exacting standards. Ben Thomas (Will Smith) has a debt to repay for the seven lives he took in a car accident, and so the phrase is both metaphorical and literal since six of the debts are repaid with his actual “flesh”.

First, I did like this film. It was well acted by all.

I quickly realized where the plot was going. Obviously there were obvious clues in the trailer, but still, despite it seeming obvious, I kept watching. There were enough twists to the plot to keep things interesting. It was nice to see how everything played out, filling in the details and the character motivations in later scenes.I don’t hate it when I guess the ending early in a film. I only hate it when the road to resolution is lined with boring scenery.

Will Smith’s screen persona is just likable, even when he’s playing such a troubled character. He’s energetic and believable in everything that I’ve seen him do. Seven Pounds is another fine performance.

Rosario Dawson is a solid performer, portraying a quirky, rather upbeat character despite a terminal heart condition. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with Rosario, if you don’t find her gorgeous, you should think about replacing your eyes.

It was nice to see Woody Harrelson back on the screen. I haven’t seen him much lately, but that could just be me. Woody didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time, but he sold his jolly, piano-playing, blind man character for all it was worth. Excellent.

Overall, I have to recommend this film not for the plotting, but for some very good performances, and for the fact that it tends to evoke some of the tragic emotions that we generally try to avoid.

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Pursuit of Happyness, The

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Jan 222007
 

The Pursuit of HappinessA struggling salesman (Will Smith) takes custody of his son (Jaden Smith) as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor.

Directed by
Gabriele Muccino

Genres
Biography, Drama

Cast
Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta, Kurt Fuller, Takayo Fischer, Kevin West, George Cheung, David Michael Silverman, Domenic Bove, Geoff Callan, Joyful Raven, Scott Klace

Here’s the deal: It’s real, it’s heavy, and it’s inspirational, but NOT AT ALL cheesy. Don’t like that? Don’t see it. I won’t say much else. I will say that Will Smith was shockingly good now that he’s paid his dues with “Men in Black” and “Bad Boys.”

I was very happy that this film never got political and blamed Reagan for the number of “down on their luck” people that were shown, nor was the race card ever pulled out. It was also refreshing that Smith’s character never blamed anybody for his troubles.

On one hand, the film reinforces the great American myth of the self-made man and equal opportunity. Myths are not necessarily false simply for being myths–we can make some of them true by choice, and our belief in this myth still helps make America great. Free-market capitalism is not the cure to all ills–surely it is the source of many ills–but it does open social doors that nothing else can even budge. On the other hand, if you can leave this movie without a burning indignation that any American child of any race should have to struggle just to have a place to sleep, you must be cynical indeed. This movie doesn’t get on a soapbox, not even for a second–it just tells a real-life story that owns you before you know it.

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