Seven Pounds (2008)
Seven Pounds is an unexpected holiday powerhouse. Will Smith shakes off his familiar, comfortable persona, and cuts to the unsettled heart of humanity.
Smith has been riding a recent wave of gimmickry (Hancock) and contrived sentimentality (The Pursuit of Happyness), but in Seven Pounds he challenges the audience to accept an intense, provocative experience. It will be very interesting to see if the audience is up to the challenge and will accept this new, bold Will Smith venture.
Seven Pounds is a movie about goodness, and a man who is on a crusade to reward goodness. Smith plays Ben Thomas, an "IRS agent," a tormented Good Samaritan, who gets involved in the lives of seven strangers. They are all good people who have serious problems.
But this is no Frank Capra populist entertainment.
It's surprising that the screenplay actually has reached the screen. It's one of the best scripts of the year, but the writer Grant Nieporte has only written for tv, and this is his screen debut.
The script is clever, motivated, and has integrity. Some people may reject Seven Pounds because it does have demanding integrity. But I'm guessing that a lot more people will affirm it.
The director Gabriele Muccino, who helmed The Pursuit of Happyness, seems an unlikely choice to overcome sentimentality with true sentiment. But he does.
Rosario Dawson renders a very affecting, sincere performance as one of the troubled strangers. She has touching chemistry with Will Smith. (Will asked his wife Jada for advice about how to play a sex scene with Rosario. Smart Will.)
Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper, and a gifted cast add texture and personality to the human drama.
By the way, don't let anyone tell you the ending.
This seems to be the movie Will Smith and director Muccino really wanted to make -- not just another commercial venture.
Seven Pounds is a potent, thought-provoking, challenging experience.