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SEVEN POUNDS

SYNOPSIS:
Depressed and guilt ridden IRS agent Ben (Will Smith) has a fateful secret; to redeem himself, he sets out to help seven strangers who are needy and deserving. But when he meets and falls for Emily (Rosario Dawson), a beautiful woman with a heart condition, his situation becomes unbearably complicated.

Review by Louise Keller:
Morality has never seemed as arduous as in this morbidly drawn, intense drama filled with questions and pretension. The first question we might ask is what does the title mean? It is not explained, but taking a stab, I imagine that it refers in part at least, to weight. And when it comes to weight, there is no question that the weight of this drama lies on the broad shoulders of its star Will Smith, whose pensive and troubled face is shown in haunting close up throughout. But even the charismatic Smith cannot save this absurd tale in which we meet seven needy souls who Smith's Ben Thomas deems to be 'good people'.

In the film's dramatic opening scene, Ben dials 911 and reports an emergency in which he is involved. From then on, we are witness to the putting together of a complex jigsaw puzzle with snippets of information given in flashback. There's a beautiful woman, an idyllic beach house and an accident. We also meet Woody Harrelson's blind salesman cum pianist, a kindly social worker, an ailing child, a battered mother of two and a woman with a congenital heart problem who longs for the time she cannot have. Other elements include a deadly jellyfish, a vegetarian Great Dane called Duke and a dingy motel room that becomes home for two weeks. Director Gabriele Muccino, with whom Smith collaborated in the The Pursuit of Happyness and his star seem to have been overwhelmed by TV sitcom screenwriter Grant Nieporte's high concept story. But for us, the audience, the leap of faith is too great. We engage at times and disconnect at others, when manipulation engulfs us like a stifling fog.

But it's not all bad. The performances sing and Philippe Le Sourd's cinematography is terrific. Music is carefully selected, especially with effective use of songs like Feeling Good and Que Sera Sera. The love story between Smith and Rosario Dawson's Emily Posa delivers some memorable moments, although by the time love has blossomed, we have a pretty good idea where the story is headed. As the film heads to its inevitable climax, there is no charm whatsoever in its graphic explicitness. Smith fans will be disappointed in this Holier Than Thou story of redemption that does little except weigh heavily on us for all the wrong reasons.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A jigsaw puzzle thrown on the table, tantalising tiles offering glimpses of the bigger picture, with some pieces that are bright and positive, others that are dark and depressing. That's the impression you get watching Seven Pounds, a broken mosaic that is at once tantalising and infuriatingly elusive. The story is quite simple, though, not that I'm about to reveal it, since the whole point of the scattered jigsaw approach of talented filmmaker Gabriele Muccino - who made The Last Kiss, Remember Me and The Pursuit of Happyness also starring Will Smith - is to hold us in suspense as Ben (Will Smith) goes about a mysteriously driven task of helping selected individuals in major ways.

Simple or not, once you understand the full story, you either love the treatment or you don't. I don't. I don't even like the story, although I can see it work as a well written short story, it's revelatory punch line coming quickly and decisively in the last paragraph. But since I won't reveal the crunch, I can't very well talk about why I don't like it.

On the other hand, I do like the performances and the craftsmanship is superb. Will Smith's agonies are played out in his eyes and on his face; Rosario Dawson, also a favourite, is instantly likeable and credible. Woody Harrelson is cast against type and he is surprising, complex, memorable. So are all the supports, even the motel manager, who makes his tiny role important.

Seven Pounds, a title whose meaning or relevance is ambiguous, suffers from being too earnest and sentimental, overdone and grim, even when it should have our spirits soar. It's the kind of premise that a writer will lovingly nurture and probe, but it fails the truth test. As a love story it's unsatisfactory and as a redemption story it's slightly ridiculous.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

SEVEN POUNDS (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Elpidia Carrillo, Robinne Lee, Joe Nunez, Bill Smitrovich, Tim Kelleher, Gina Hecht

PRODUCER: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, James Lassiter, Will Smith, Steve Tisch

DIRECTOR: Gabriele Muccino

SCRIPT: Grant Nieporte

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Le Sourd

EDITOR: Hughes Winborne

MUSIC: Angelo Milli

PRODUCTION DESIGN: J. Michael Riva

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 8, 2009







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