Seven Pounds, the second collaboration between The Pursuit Of Happyness
director Gabriele Muccino and Will Smith, is so much a product of phony emotions made manifest through its pretentious handling and a completely brain dead and manipulative story line, that while it is aimed straight at your heart, it ends up hitting your head the most. Assuming straight out of the bat that your audience is stupid has never served anyone well.
The climax is the crux on which the whole film hangs, and by the time you get to it by way of multiple weavings of the thread, you realize that this would have made even less sense if the story was told chronologically. Everything in the film, including the promos, has been designed to obfuscate the viewer's perception of the film. They won't tell you what it is about. Now I know why - because the central conceit is so silly, so maudlin, that no one would have paid the admission price if they knew what Muccino has just done.
Sitcom writer Grant Nieporte's story begins when a man (Smith) calls 911 from a derelict motel and tells them about a potential suicide underway. When asked who the victim is, he replies "I am", and then the rest of the film tries to explain to us the reason for that one penultimate moment of the story. Thus the film's sleight of hand begins work by trying to keep the audience invested in the story to hook them up with the promised twist ending.
Nieporte, however, is much better at creating anticipation for the finale than at keeping us engaged. For a very long time in the film, nothing on the screen makes much sense or impacts the narrative in any major way, leaving the audience cold and fidgeting. When the story does unfold, the closer it gets to revealing the central conceit to us, the angrier we get at being treated as 8-year-old kids with no understanding of a film's visual currency.
With a very strange jellyfish motif and Angelo Milli's forthright score, we are subjected to requisite premonitions of IRS agent Ben Thomas' troubled past, and his current stalker-like insistence to put himself in the lives of people including blind phone-marketer Ezra (Harrelson) and a woman literally with a broken heart, Emily (Dawson).
What happened to Ben is less important that what he is going to do about it, so the film relentlessly moves forward telling us that his visits to these people are not intrusions - these are auditions. If he deems them worthy of his gifts, if he deems them "good", Ben is going to give these people a gift that will change their life for the better. The more the un-expatiated narrative moves forward with its confused imagery and phony spiritualism, the more you realize what is going to happen in the end.
This infuriates you even further.
Seven Pounds could have been a very smartly made film about spiritualism and man's consequences of his time on Earth; what it becomes however is a dumb, in-your-face film that was designed to get the maximum emotional response from us in order to hide its own incompetence at character development or a practical narrative.
However the worst crime here is to make a Will Smith film and not use his screen charisma to smooth things over. Smith is shockingly ineffective here, and has no presence, mostly because the brooding distracts from the story. The director is too busy painting Smith in halos and glow-y lights, portraying him as a Christ figure, while Smith's character as a flawed individual is much more real and interesting.
This incongruent filmmaking on Muccino's part makes Seven Pounds a confused movie which, albeit well-shot in certain sequences, is the kind of film that is made specifically for a broad, unthinking audience, not an intelligent audience with an understanding of character and drama. This is the saas-bahu
class of filmmaking in a major Hollywood film.
Everyone is complicit in our suffering here. The film was conceived, created and executed as a strange messiah complex on the part of Will Smith, and everyone, including those in the supporting cast, is trying his best to propound that thought. The film is shambling, poorly-made, and uses a broken narrative to obscure a ridiculous plot that would appeal only to the lowest common denominator.