×

Seven Pounds

"Seven Pounds" is an endlessly sentimental fable about sacrifice and redemption that aims only at the heart at the expense of the head.

With:
Ben Thomas - Will Smith Emily Posa - Rosario Dawson Ezra Turner - Woody Harrelson Ben's Brother - Michael Ealy Dan - Barry Pepper Connie Tepos - Elpidia Carrillo George Ristucci - Bill Smitrovich Sarah - Robinne Lee Stewart Goodman - Tim Kelleher Larry/Hotel Owner - Joseph A. Nunez Dr. Briar - Gina Hecht

A movie that, like “The Sixth Sense,” depends entirely upon the payoff for its impact, “Seven Pounds” is an endlessly sentimental fable about sacrifice and redemption that aims only at the heart at the expense of the head. Intricately constructed so as to infuriate anyone predominantly guided by rationality and intellect, this reteaming of star Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino after their surprisingly effective “The Pursuit of Happyness” is off-putting for its manifest manipulations, as well as its pretentiousness and self-importance. All the same, the climax will be emotionally devastating for many viewers, perhaps particularly those with serious religious beliefs, meaning there’s a substantial audience out there for this profoundly peculiar drama, if word gets around.

Everything, including the title, the ad campaign and a good portion of the film, is designed to give away absolutely nothing about the true nature of the picture. Melodramatic opening scene plays like something out of an old film noir like “D.O.A.,” as a man (Smith) calls 911 to report a suicide. “Who’s the victim?” the operator asks. “I am,” the man replies, whereupon there’s nowhere to go but to a film-long flashback to reveal what’s gotten him to this point.

Popular on Variety

Thus begins first-time screenwriter Grant Nieporte’s narrative sleight-of-hand, designed to keep the audience onboard for a long ride while offering just enough of a hint that an intriguing revelation awaits at the end of the line. He’s better at the latter than at the former; for at least the first half of the film, none of what you see makes much sense or possesses any particular dramatic import.

Carrying an ID card from the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, Smith’s Ben Thomas circles some names on a printout. One is blind phone salesman and pianist Ezra (Woody Harrelson), while another is Emily (Rosario Dawson), a young woman with an enlarged heart who will need a transplant soon if she’s to survive. It’s hard to know how to read Ben during this phase; the way he insinuates himself into other people’s lives gives him something of the air of a hustler or con man, and his contentious phone relationship with his brother (Michael Ealy) raises questions of its own.

On the other hand, Ben appears anxious to please, his directness and soft-spoken urgency betokening a genuineness of intent. Before long, an appealing tenderness enters into his relationship with Emily that ultimately blossoms into a full-blown love story, something that fills out a great chunk of the running time.

Given Emily’s vulnerability, Ben’s gentle patience with her, Smith and Dawson’s attractiveness, the lushly intimate widescreen images devised by Muccino and lenser Philippe Le Sourd, and Angelo Milli’s literally incessant button-pushing score, “Seven Pounds” offers either seductive emotional appeal or indigestible mawkishness, according to taste. Along the way, there are references to a fatal vehicular accident, suggestions of Ben’s deceptiveness and inscrutable imagery of a jellyfish which, you may be sure, all factor crucially in the denouement.

Whether one entirely rejects the project’s high-minded game-playing or falls right into the filmmakers’ quasi-spiritual trap and is thereby helplessly reduced to a jellyfish-like state at the end, it’s impossible to claim that Muccino and Nieporte lack the courage of their convictions, or faith in the moral value of their contrived little sacrificial fable.

Nor can it be said that Smith, whose most recent box office barn-burners, “I Am Legend” and “Hancock,” seemed consciously designed to set the star apart from the rest of humanity, shies away from the saintlike status conferred upon his character. Indeed, he embraces it in a way so convincing that it proves disturbing as an indication of how highly this or any momentarily anointed superstar may regard himself.

Seven Pounds

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with Relativity Media, of an Overbrook Entertainment, Escape Artists production. Produced by Todd Black, James Lassiter, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Will Smith. Executive producers, David Crockett, David Bloomfield, Ken Stovitz, Domenico Procacci. Co-producers, Molly Allen, Chrissy Blumenthal. Directed by Gabriele Muccino. Screenplay, Grant Nieporte.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Philippe Le Sourd; editor, Hughes Winborne; music, Angelo Milli; production designer, J. Michael Riva; art director, David F. Klassen; set designer, Anne Porter; set decorator, Leslie A. Pope; costume designer, Sharon Davis; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Jim Stuebe; supervising sound editor, Dennis Drummond; sound designer, D. Chris Smith; supervising sound mixers, Tateum Kohut, Greg Orloff, Rick Kline; associate producer, Tracey Nyberg; assistant director, Jeffrey Wetzel; second unit director, Conrad E. Palmisano; second unit camera, Josh Bleibtreu; casting, Denise Chamian, Angela Demo. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Dec. 3, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 123 MIN.

Cast: Ben Thomas - Will Smith Emily Posa - Rosario Dawson Ezra Turner - Woody Harrelson Ben's Brother - Michael Ealy Dan - Barry Pepper Connie Tepos - Elpidia Carrillo George Ristucci - Bill Smitrovich Sarah - Robinne Lee Stewart Goodman - Tim Kelleher Larry/Hotel Owner - Joseph A. Nunez Dr. Briar - Gina Hecht

More Scene

  • Logan Lerman Jordan Peele Al Pacino

    Al Pacino and Carol Kane Had a ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ Reunion on the ‘Hunters’ Set

    Nearly 45 years after Al Pacino and Carol Kane appeared in Sidney Lumet’s classic film “Dog Day Afternoon,” an Amazon Prime Video series about Nazi-hunters in 1977 New York City has brought them back together. Go figure. “I’m proud to be working with him again,” Kane told Variety at the “Hunters” premiere on Wednesday night [...]

  • Anya Taylor Joy Emma Premiere

    Anya Taylor-Joy on Playing Jane Austen's Clever, Callous Protagonist in 'Emma'

    It was an evening of elegance at the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features’ “Emma” on Tuesday night. The red carpet was lined with pastel floral arrangements at the DGA Theater, priming visitors to be transported to the ornate pageantry of Georgian-era England, as depicted in this new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic tale. Anya [...]

  • Tom Holland Chris Pratt Onward Premiere

    Tom Holland and Chris Pratt Show Off Real-Life Bond at Pixar's 'Onward' Premiere

    Pixar’s new movie “Onward” marks a reunion of sorts for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The two actors, who both have ties to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and most recently teamed in “Avengers: Endgame” as Spider-Man and Star-Lord, play brothers in the animated fantasy adventure. Their friendship has become a highlight of “Onward’s” promotional tour [...]

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph

    Da’Vine Joy Randolph Praises Hulu's 'High Fidelity' for Telling a Realistic New York Story

    If HBO’s “Girls” characterized a certain type of young, disaffected millennial, fumbling cluelessly around a gentrifying Brooklyn, and if “Sex and the City” used Manhattan as a tantalizing playground for a class of well-connected, glamorous and decidedly 90s-bound women, both shows had one thing in common: they were painfully, inevitably white. “We’re gonna fix that!,” [...]

  • Harrison Ford Call of the Wild

    Why Harrison Ford Wanted to Play John Thornton in ‘The Call of the Wild’

    Joining legends like Charlton Heston and Clarke Gable, who have played the role of John Thornton in “The Call of the Wild,” Harrison Ford now stands next to a CGI-enhanced version of the dog named Buck in the latest adaptation of Jack London’s classic 1903 novel. “I thought the film has a lot to say [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content