Touched by an Agent
Some people like ambiguity from their movies. Others, not so much. I’d say that means there’s something for everyone to like in the “what the hell is going on? oh, that’s what the hell is going on, and it’s pretty much what I figured out it’d be about twenty minutes in” Seven Pounds, except that while the no-surprises crowd will quickly get over the early vague minutes of Pounds as it moves on to being completely obvious, the fans of ambiguity will not be pleased to see what they thought was going to be an exercise in deliberate uncertainty turn into a trite and predictable Lifetime Movie of the Week.
Perhaps you will not be surprised, then — sorry to ruin the fun for the ambiguity lovers all the more — to learn that the past experience of screenwriter Grant Nieporte, making his feature debut here, is confined to a couple of sitcom episodes. Ah, you think, that sorta explains it: Seven Pounds is a dramatic sitcom, one of those Lifetime movies given a shiny, Oscar-baiting sheen by the casting of the 21st-century Jimmy Stewart, Will Smith(TM); the directorial efforts of Gabriele Muccino, whose last film was the Oscar-baiting The Pursuit of Happyness, also starring Will Smith(TM); and the mixing-it-up-ness of a screenplay that mixes the triteness up in much the same way that a small child hides the fact that it hasn’t eaten its peas by shoving them around the plate and then under the mashed potatoes. Like by launching itself, say, with the unexpected gambit of having said Jimmy Stewart-esque all-American movie hero Will Smith(TM) announcing to a 911 operator, in the very open moments of the film, that he is about to commit suicide, and please to send an ambulance.
Why would Will Smith(TM) (Hancock, I Am Legend) want to commit suicide? How can this be allowed at The Movies, where Will Smith(TM) is always our hero and kills the aliens and gets the girl and triumphs over adversity and makes us all feel better about ourselves? Why do the filmmakers get all arty and confusing and secretive about what is driving Will Smith(TM), in the flashbacks that come after the 911 call, to investigate total strangers to discover if they’re nice people, and what would drive him to give these people — if and when they do turn out to be nice — an extraordinary Gift? How can Will Smith(TM) be allowed to be sad?
You see, it’s all part of the slick Oscar-y polish the movie is putting on the standard Will Smith(TM) Triumphs story, the thing that makes it not a Lifetime Movie of the Week. It doesn’t matter if it’s all slicker and polishier and shinier than it should be — it’s only all those boring arthouse fans with their boring arthouse movies about rage and pain and the awfulness of being human who could possibly think that Will Smith(TM) should be more full of rage and pain and anger at his life and the tragedy of it, and that that’s what should be driving him to investigate all those people and help out the ones who really, really deserve it. That’s like saying that Santa Claus should be full of genuine rage and pain — and not pretty pretend rage and pain, like Will Smith(TM) is here. It’s just wrong and nasty to expect Will Smith(TM) to get so, you know, dirty and real in a movie that’s supposed to be, and undoubtedly will be, the Feel-Good Movie of the Christmas Season. Shame on me for thinking otherwise.
It also would be despicable to suggest that there’s something creepy about how Will Smith(TM)’s IRS agent uses his position as an IRS agent to find out stuff about people that he shouldn’t know… or that it gets even creepier when you find out how he was able to access that information.
Anyway, it’s okay, because soon it becomes screamingly obvious — as not-fans of ambiguity will be delighted to hear — how and why Will Smith(TM) is doing what he’s doing to help people like Emily (Rosario Dawson: Eagle Eye, Death Proof), who is beautiful and dying, and Ezra (Woody Harrelson: Semi-Pro, Sleepwalking), who is blind and noble and has the patience of Job. And of course it matters not one whit that what Will Smith(TM) is doing, particularly in the cases of these two of the seven people he is handing a pound of his flesh — either metaphorically or literally — is wildly unethical to the point that any honest version of this movie would end with the tragic revelation of that.
And that would be really ironic, if Will Smith(TM) turned out to be doing something really terrible, something that could potentially have horrible reprecussions for many other people, while believing he’s doing something gallant and selfless.
But this is not an honest movie. It’s a Will Smith(TM), Feel-Good Movie of the Christmas Season movie. And for shame to anyone who attempts to bring honest and authenticity to a decent, all-American movie like this one.