Seven Pounds (review)

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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.

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kris
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 7:35pm

…and off I go, looking for another review of this movie. I wonder if anyone was in that private screening who can write coherently and actually make a real point…

amanohyo
amanohyo
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 7:47pm

I’m guessing kris is not a lover of ambiguity.

misterb
misterb
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 7:53pm

kris,
I read several other reviews on this movie, and they basically say the same thing as MaryAnn: You can’t say much about the plot of this movie without giving away what little of value it contains.

I take it you are one of those people who don’t like ambiguity.

MaSch
MaSch
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 4:18am

Problem is: When concealing the spoilers of a bad movie, some readers of this review will have an urge to go see the movie just to find out *what* the non-surprise was.

Like: What the hell *is* the unethical thing Will Smith’s character does which is presented as ethical? Gosh darn it, I want to know. Unambiguously.

ryan
ryan
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 9:54am

This reviewer is a jerkoff. This was a great movie.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 10:18am

Like: What the hell *is* the unethical thing Will Smith’s character does which is presented as ethical? Gosh darn it, I want to know. Unambiguously.

I’ll post something on that next week… with spoiler warnings. (I want to wait a few days to give those who really want to see the film time to see it.)

This reviewer is a jerkoff. This was a great movie.

Ryan: If you want to be taken seriously, don’t talk like a 12-year-old, and back up your assertations. *How* is this a good movie? *What,* specifically, is “good” about it?

AJP
AJP
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 11:56am

Heck, I haven’t seen the movie and I can guess what the unethical thing Smith is doing that is presented as ethical.

Here’s a hint: he says he’s going to commit suicide and to send an ambulance right away. He talks to a bunch with people who have medical problems that could be solved if only they have the right donor. The movie is called “Seven Pounds”, as in “seven pounds of flesh”.

Connect the dots.

Jester
Jester
Sun, Dec 21, 2008 10:27am

I can’t find it now, but there was an amusing story about an exchange on the Hancock set. Don’t know if it’s true, but it feels true.

Will Smith, to Charlize Theron: “This is gonna be different for you, isn’t it? Being in a movie that people actually go to see?”

Charlize Theron, to Will Smith: “It’s OK. I console myself with the Oscar on my mantle.”

Charlize 1, Will 0.

Will Smith REALLY wants that Oscar now. ;-)

Anon
Anon
Tue, Dec 23, 2008 2:53pm

I completely disagree with the review.

Great film. Tear-jerked the audience.

Boston
Boston
Tue, Dec 23, 2008 4:04pm

Left the theater like everyone else with tears! Great movie! I figured it out fast like most people but didn’t mind the extra lenght due to good acting. End is the best part. Put together really well. Thought it was much better than Hancock

Jan Willem
Jan Willem
Tue, Dec 23, 2008 10:27pm

SPOILERS FOR THOSE FEW WHO HAVEN’T FIGURED IT OUT YET

So let me get this straight: Will Smith plays a wealthy, narcissist rocket scientist who killed his beautiful girlfriend and six strangers in a car accident because he believed he could multitask (texting + driving). Severely depressed whilst suffering delusions of grandeur, he decides that his sins are too great to be forgiven. He cannot humbly atone for them by using whatever talent he possesses to do something positive for his fellow men during the many years he has ahead of him. Nope, that doesn’t suit his supersize ego. He decides he must make a grander gesture and works out a fitting exit strategy: offing himself in a bathtub filled with ice cubes that’ll keep his organs nicely chilled. Because – there’s the rub – in his distraught, depressed and deluded frame of mind he has developed a saviour complex that makes him feel entitled to judge who is worthy to inherit his house, his money or one or more of his precious organs. After destroying seven lives – conveniently not counting the many bereaved – he feels he needs to save seven other lives. No more, no less, ’cause that will, like, restore karmic balance. However, in order to jerk some extra tears and to belabour the point, he loses his metaphorical heart to a terminally ill yet gorgeous woman (only in the movies!) to whom he intends to donate his actual heart. Still he doesn’t swerve from his self-imposed doom and dies a cool death, undoubtedly with a suitably anguished expression, to bestow longevity on others. How very messianic.

Or, more accurately: what a morbid mess. I don’t even need to see this film to find it repulsive. Surely suicide is not an appropriate response to grief and depression, but a copout that doesn’t deserve to be glamorized. (Not talking as a pro-life Christian here, I’m a simple humanist.) This movie might even encourage (if that’s the right word) some people contemplating taking their own lives. Frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t been a more general moral outcry against it.

carol
carol
Wed, Dec 24, 2008 2:22am

The professional reviewer said Touched by an Agent. I get what he/she is saying because when I finished watching this move, I was thinking of the TV show Touched by an Angel. Nonetheless, this movie overall is no less than a B-. I personally gave it a solid B. The movie’s theme is that TM (Will Smith) is trying to make amends for an accident that had drastic results. This movie is saved by it many dramatic and highly emotional scenes, and its ending. The romantic relationship that develops between TM (Will Smith) and his female companion came about far too conveniently and in a TV show fashion. Yes, the movie’s plot is a bit confusing at times, and it is too simple until you get to the last 15-20 minutes, but the surprises that result are worth waiting for. Yes, about 40 minutes into the movie it did drag a little, but like I said it recovered nicely, and the last 15-20 minutes were extremely satisfying, which is an area in where so many movies fail. The ending was strong. I liked this film. I wanted to walk back in there and see it again. The critics are being too harsh. I almost passed on this movie because of the poor reviews.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Wed, Dec 24, 2008 9:56am

Great film. Tear-jerked the audience.

What’s great about being manipulated?

I didn’t cry at the end of this. I did want to throw something at the screen, though.

Boston
Boston
Wed, Dec 24, 2008 10:35am

haha well I am glad you stopped yourself. I hear those screens are expensive! Due to the films different nature it isn’t going to be a loved by everyone kind of film. Some will find the ending super unethical and refuse to see (such as girlfriends parents lol). I don’t know if I was manipulated, maybe moved. But if I was I didn’t mind. But I totally can see why many would have your opinion also. I guess I am part of that “no-surprises crowd.”

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 2:53pm

What’s “different” about this film’s “nature”?

Adam
Adam
Sun, Dec 28, 2008 1:48pm

Ok. I feel like I am preaching to the choir but perhaps someone will spread the message, or I say the true message about this film. I can only hope and pray.
So I sound like I know alittle bit about the depth of this film allow me to back up, and tell you about me first. I myself, in the last 10 years have suffered the loss of both my parents and a man who would have been my father in law but he past away right before I married his daughter. However, I have been happily married for a year and a half now. Thanks. My point, I with the help of Jesus Christ have come to understand loss, gain, pain, happiness, how precious life is, and certainly unselfeshness. And I have read and heard alot of veiws on this movie, almost all good reviews and all commenting on Will’s performance and how deep the movie is. The movie was shot well and I agree that Mr. Smith gave an excellent performance as far as acting. But I am afraid it was too deep for people to see the underlining message that jumped out at me and was also appalling to me in at the same time. If you strip back the layers you will see too that this film glorifies suicide and not in a way that someone may think is honorable. For example, in life a soldier in the heat of battle my take a bullet for a friend to save the friend or another example (as I am sure plenty are aware here) how Christ died on the cross for our sins. Ben-Will’s character is not Jesus and certainly did not sacrifice his life in an honorable way or unselfishly.
Out of guilt and shame of a past mistake he sets his life up to help others by killing himself then donating his organs to help the people he decides is worthy. In my opinion, there is no heroic act here and no blessing of good. I am so afraid that this misguided story is going to encourage suicidal behavior of those already struggling with these thoughts. We need to open our eyes to the lies. Satan can and does come as a angel of light to deceive man.
I propose a question, What is the point of donating a physical heart to help someone live or give up your physical eyes to the blind to help them see our beautiful earth when in the end you leave a girl with a broken heart and people who miss seeing the truth?

coolkhush
coolkhush
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 6:03am

out of all the movies i have seen ive loved this one and the persuit of happiness will smith has stolen the show again and i hav to say it tat he is the most versitike actor ive seen ……….

stellersjay
stellersjay
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 3:22pm

It’s never encouraging when you’ve figured the whole thing out in the first 15-20 minutes, but what’s wrong with this movie goes way beyond its predictability. Jan Willem nailed it. Intentionally or not, the film is a character study of a man whose certainty of his own superiority is intact even after it caused seven peoples’ death.

The grandiose form that his atonement takes is classic pathological narcisssism. Not for him, say, working in a hospice and facing the kind of pain and grief that his actions would have generated in such abundance. He has to be a Saviour, and decide, personally, who’s worthy of the life his organs represent.

Watching him lecture the battered wife, whose experience he clearly had no understanding of (—It’s simple, you just walk away, right?), and abusing the blind man to see if he had the patience of a saint, was fascinating because it was completely consistent with how a narcissist thinks. We’re all inferior, and they’re entitled to play judge and jury.

Finally, as if it wasn’t already enough of a disaster, the story just had to include a terminally ill babe. In Hollywood, only foxes get really sick, and it never affects their appearance.

p.s. Maryann, I just discovered your blog last night and look forward to visiting regularly.

Jade Fox
Jade Fox
Thu, Jan 01, 2009 1:23pm

The only reason why I saw this movie at all because my sister wanted to see it(She’s a Will Smith fan.) I have to echo stellarjay’s thoughts in saying that Ben is a total narcissist. Seriously, with the way he was going on, you would think he was the first person in the history of humankind to make a mistake that had serious consequences. Last I checked, human beings do that every day.

Now I can understand his guilt and wanting to atone for his big mistake and if this movie truly was about atonement, I could kind of get behind his plan. However it’s never ever about the people he’s helping: It’s all about him. He never seems to look past his own pain and recognize the suffering of others and why some people are in the situations they are in. The scene with the Latina single mother with an abusive boyfriend is proof of this.

And the worst part about all of this is that this movie condones his actions. He never gets called out on his self absorbed behavior. The movie clearly thinks what he’s doing is selfless and grand when really I just wanted someone like Barry Pepper’s character or his brother to just bitchslap him and tell him to get over himself.

E
E
Tue, Jan 06, 2009 10:29am

I think that Will Smith’s character had issues far before the accident.
Therapy and Guidance (the Lord) could only have helped it. NOT Suicide and butchering oneself. I totally agree with Adam. Suicide and self-glorification was the only thing happening in it (the movie)

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jan 06, 2009 3:22pm

NOT Suicide and butchering oneself.

Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute: are you suggesting that organ donation is “butchering oneself”?

The morality of this movie aside, what’s the point of hanging onto sutff you can’t use after you’re gone?

coolkhush
coolkhush
Mon, Jan 12, 2009 1:00pm

u know wat actually i was thinking why did they name it 7 pounds and nt anything else , their could be any other name but tell me why this one ???

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Jan 12, 2009 11:44pm

It’s a poor attempt to inject some Shakespearean power by referencing *The Merchant of Venice* and its pound of flesh.

coolkhush
coolkhush
Fri, Jan 16, 2009 1:07pm

i would really wanna know that wat does 7 pounds mean ???

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Jan 17, 2009 6:35pm

Are you yanking my chain, coolkhush?

Daniel Oliver
Daniel Oliver
Sun, Jan 18, 2009 1:27am

This comment is pertaining to Ms.Jan Willem’s comment posted on Dec 23rd. I am saying that you are very wrong about your statement on the affects this movie will have on certain individuals who are in the sights of taking there own lives. I am a severly depressed individual and have attempted suicide twice and watching this movie honestly didn’t give me an urge to go jump of a building ( even though the thought never crossed my mind prior to seeing this movie). We suisidals have our own agenda when it comes down to taking our own lives. We don’t look at other persons reasons to commit to taking our own lives. You wouldn’t understand the pain involved in a person who chooses this path. Tell you the truth, after I read your comment, I did have a slight urge to walk into moving traffic…….and for those who post stupid comments after this, you know where you can go.

Jan Willem
Jan Willem
Sun, Jan 18, 2009 6:01am

Daniel Oliver, I’m pleased to hear the film did not further encourage the suicidal tendencies you write about. However, I do know what depression is from personal experience – although I’ve never harmed myself – and I still stand by my analysis of Will Smith’s character as a narcissist personality. Wishing you well in your ongoing battle against depression. (Thanks for your courteous form of address, but it’s Mr.)

Kenny
Kenny
Fri, Jan 23, 2009 8:09pm

I thought this movie was incredibly tedious. It was obvious to the point of farce, and any emotional response it provoked was down to shameless manipulation.

About the only thing I enjoyed were the occassional flashes of some form of genuine affection between Dawson and Smith.

Also… it rained really hard whenever Will Smith(tm) was upset.

tishabridgest
tishabridgest
Sat, Jan 24, 2009 8:03am

i wanna know wat does 7 pounds mean ??? the reason why ths name ??

Kelly
Kelly
Mon, Jan 26, 2009 4:51pm

It was a very interesting film. The story is interesting, and forces one to pay attention. The performances were very strong.

The snotty comments from many of the reviewers are rooted in the belief that any film emphasizing positive moral values must be a trite piece of fluff to skip over. The cynics will hate this movie, but that is because of cynicism not due to a truly qualitative judgment.

The movie is very much worth seeing. I enjoyed it far more than Benjamin Button, with its makeup gimmickry and extremely predictable plot line.

stellersjay
stellersjay
Mon, Jan 26, 2009 5:18pm

Get off your high horse, Kelly. You don’t know me and you don’t know the other people here who weren’t impressed by this film, so making disparaging comments about our cynicism is gratuitously, well, snotty. You liked it; I and others didn’t. That, as my old man used to say, is what makes horse racing.

Sean Riley
Sean Riley
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 1:22am

OK, as usual I’m behind the 8 ball on this one, but here’s my thoughts on it. I’ll do my best to keep the spoilers out.

I thought it was good. Not great, but good. And I think that seeing it as an attempt to be uplifting, to characterise Will Smith’s character as noble, is to miss the underlying point.

This is a movie about a man who loathes himself. Utterly, totally and without pause, enough to not just seek to destroy himself but devote his life to destroying himself in such a way that he hopes it will lift the weight from his conscience. (It doesn’t, I’d argue. The last scenes in the film show no sign in Will Smith’s demeanor that he has found any peace.) The overwhelming theme of the film is ‘atonement’.

Will Smith expresses little joy throughout the film, except when he is with others. When alone, his manner is a mixture of anger and melancholy. His mood with those who understand his plot are snappish and nasty.

After all, what good is his plan in the long run? We learn fairly quickly that this man was accomplished and successful, and could have, without his planned suicide, saved many more lives by living then dying. The point of his plan was not to save lives but to die.

Rather than seeing this film as an “emphasizing positive moral values”. It doesn’t. It is of utmost importance in understanding the film to note that Will Smith’s character does exactly as much harm as he does good in the film’s story; arguably more. And I’m stunned by how many reviewers believe it’s meant to uplift, when the film instead instilled within me an incredible, horrible bleakness that reduced me to tears… and that I believe is intentional. Yes, the last scenes are hopeful, but they are contrasted with the darkest scene in the film immediately preceding it. The damage Smith does and the good he does are directly juxtaposed – Which is the point.

That said, I don’t think it’s a great film. Mary-Ann is completely right when she says the film becomes depressingly unambiguous as it goes on, when its ambiguity was a strength. I was not sold on the romantic plot.

But I felt there were too many good points to call it bad. It’s a bleak picture of hatred and self-loathing, a desperate (and failed) effort of a man who wants to believe he is good.

Muzz
Muzz
Sun, Feb 01, 2009 5:50am

It’s all a it old hat now and I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard the first 20 minutes explained and it’s pretty easy to figure out. (plus some mentioned Jesus of Montreal along side it as a better example of something similar. Which makes it pretty plain. But you get a long way with this sort of thing knowing that no one has seen any of the films it rips off, or borrows filmic techniques from. “Story out of order? Whoah! Cerazey cerebral!”)
So I am continuing to Spoil here.

What I did read that was intriguing was about him apparently using a box jellyfish! Yikes. If they’re going to be that peculiar I’ll assume they’ve done the research. But damn; 1) that’s going to hurt and 2) I would have thought lethal necrotic neurotoxin would be rather bad at preserving organs for transplant. I could well be wrong about that. But it still seems like the hard way all around.

tishabridgest
tishabridgest
Tue, Feb 10, 2009 1:40pm

hey the movie is cuming to town on the 13th of feb …….

coolkhush
coolkhush
Thu, Feb 12, 2009 11:01am

yes the d day has come ……….

susmart3
susmart3
Wed, Sep 30, 2020 8:56pm

At one point when I was younger, I was tempted to donate a kidney to someone I’d never even met. But around that time I also saw this movie, which creeped me out so much, I looked into Living Donors— and ones who give more than one organ. Which was even creepier, as many felt it to be a moral obligation.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  susmart3
Sun, Oct 04, 2020 6:10pm

Donating organs to strangers is fine. It’s when you think you get to choose who gets the organ you donate that it becomes problematic.