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Seven Pounds Is Sad, Depressing, Even Sappy But I Like It

Seven Pounds
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Written by Grant Nieporte
Sony, 2008

I’ll be in the heavily-trounced minority on this one, but I enjoyed the painfully sad Seven Pounds despite its obvious pandering.  I knew while watching it that the movie’s intentions and direction would be unpopular with most critics, but this one sucked me in.  It perhaps depends on the mood you’re in, and I think the time at which you watch a movie matters as well.  The reaction to Seven Pounds reminds me of the indignation surrounding Patch Adams when it was released.  Patch Adams is one of the most infamous of pandering films, one that well, I sorta liked.  You may now tear up by membership from the critics club.

So I should dislike Seven Pounds as a guy who watches a lot of movies and can detect phoniness and all the little faux-emotional tricks that some filmmakers use to try to force a viewer to like their movie.  And I am telling you that despite these obvious tricks, I liked it.

Ben Thomas (Will Smith, reteaming with his Pursuit of Happyness director) is looking for seven people with all the right criteria…for something.  He’s an IRS agent, which grants him the access he needs to these people in most cases, but mostly he’s looking to see if the people who have met the criteria are good people, even when those people don’t know anyone is looking.  Now this is a little beyond the job of a typical IRS guy, so most of the movie we’ll be wondering, what is this guy’s deal?

We know that he’s got some sort of deal with his friend Dan (Barry Pepper), who is supposed to do something important when the time comes.  We know Ben used to be married…either his wife died or she left him.His brother (Michael Ealy) is desperately trying to reach him and talk to him.  We also know that a car crash killing seven people is of great concern to him.   So we see him interview candidates, including the blind telemarketer Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson) and the beautiful wedding invitation printer Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) who has a heart condition.  Ben and Emily are slowly falling in love, which makes Ben’s plan even more difficult.  Eventually, as you see certain events take place, it becomes pretty apparent what Ben is doing.  And your enjoyment of this movie is entirely dependent on whether you think this is acceptable.

To me, in a world where we can read all sorts of strange behavior on sites like Fark, in which the “truth is stranger than fiction” mantra thrives, it’s not out of the question that there are Ben Thomases out there.  And if this movie were “based on a true story,” you would probably have a lot more people give this flick the benefit of the doubt, although I will mention that Patch Adams was based on a true story and that didn’t help it one bit.  So maybe we like to hear this type of thing only in snippets.  Maybe we don’t like seeing it dramatized.  I’m not sure, but I tend to find it fascinating.  What drives people to be the oddball and say, “Normal boundaries do not exist for me,” and are ready to accept the consequences?

I really don’t have much bad to say about this movie.  I’ve already mentioned that I am wise to its tricks, and I figured out what Ben was doing pretty early, but other than that…nothing.  I liked Smith’s performance, I thought the love story between Ben and Emily was refreshing, and I found the movie ultimately heartbreaking.  So, I guess I liked it, folks.  My Critics Association Card is now under review for removal.  Thanks, Seven Pounds.

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