But first, a reckoning about what I wrote the other day: Maybe I was a little harsh on Yes Man, especially not having yet seen it. That’s not the order in which things ought to be done. Then again, now that I have done things in reverse order, I feel like I don’t need to retract a single word. Yes Man had a couple chuckles, sure. It was certainly harmless and completely toothless – just as it was foretold in my premonitions. It didn’t pain me to watch it in the least, but I realized that watching it or not watching it wouldn’t have made a difference, and that realization made me feel better about sneaking into it after the main feature of the day.
What I actually paid to see was Seven Pounds.
I’m a Will Smith fan – on this issue, I see no need to present a preface: This man is the biggest movie star in the world today. Uncontested. Only fictional characters even come close to what Will is achieving. This status doesn’t happen for just any actor; it takes a remarkable amount of hard work and genuine talent. I like the choices he makes and the risks he takes, whether or not the actual finished movies clear the hurdle.
And maaan, was Seven Pounds a risk. What interested me about this one is probably what turned off a whole lot of people – no matter how many trailers and posters were released, it was still very difficult (some would say impossible) to determine what this movie was supposed to be about.
In this day and age of over-information, so much promotional material and actual footage is released months in advance that it really takes a bite out of the surprise of the event. I can’t imagine how much different it would have been for me to see Iron Man or Superbad (to take two recent examples) if I had gone in blind. The sense of revelation would have been thrilling. As it is, I couldn’t really enjoy either movie until six months had passed, oft-promoted one-liners were forgotten, and I was ready to take another go-round on DVD. Seven Pounds, on the other hand, I had heard nearly nothing about.
And then, all of a sudden, I started hearing a whole LOT about Seven Pounds. More than a few friends of mine who have little in common with each other, aside from my respect for their opinions about movies, recommended it enthusiastically and highly.
On the other side of the aisle, A.O. Scott, the New York Times film critic and one of the few I enjoy reading regularly, had this to say:
“[Seven Pounds] may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made.”
Either point of view would have sent me to the theater separately, but taken together, I had to get a look at this thing.
I absolutely, positively…
Don’t know! I honestly can’t tell you what I think of this movie. I don’t think that I love it, exactly… but I know for sure that I don’t hate it. A.O. Scott was exaggerating, I think, having a little too much fun with his review. There’s way too much interesting stuff going on in it, too much production value and too many affecting performances, to call Seven Pounds “awful.”
But it did leave me with an awful lot of questions. Here are some of them:
Ø Am I dumb for not figuring out the secret before the end?
(I don’t think so. I may yet prove to be stupid, but not for this reason. I don’t think there’s any way that even the most savvy filmgoer could expect this story to go where it eventually does. A.O. Scott wouldn’t ruin it for you and I won’t either, but, strangely, I feel like A.O. Scott was kind of right with his take on the ending, although I’m not sure yet if I agree on the negative inflection.)
Ø Is Will gonna get any awards-season accolades for his role here?
(Extremely doubtful, but it’s not for lack of trying. Even those who disparage this movie on the whole will have to admit that Will tried something different here, and he did a great job, by clamping down on that considerable charisma and truly investing. As much as I enjoyed back in the day the many ways he used to rag on Uncle Phil, I never could have imagined that Will would eventually become one of the best movie-star actors working.)
Ø Is Rosario Dawson too good to be true?
(No. She creates a great portrayal of a completely good person – living in
Ø Were Woody Harrelson’s eyes in this movie intentionally funny/disturbing?
(It’s a toss-up. His eyes were kind of creepy and weird, but he gives such an interesting, solid performance, that the eyes weren’t much of an issue for me. As a general rule, I’m starting to notice how underrated Woody Harrelson is. My man’s got some range!)
Ø Is all that music a little much?
(Another toss-up. As an audience member, the constant score and soundtrack borders on too much. But on the filmmaking side, it’s somewhat necessary. The audience spends so much time in question-asking, answer-less purgatory that the music serves as a sort of Ariadne’s thread, a throughline to the final revelation.)
Ø What is Seven Pounds about, again?
(I don’t know. I mean, I think I know. But I don’t really know. Ask me again in two weeks.)
Ø Does consistently reliable character actor Barry Pepper (best known as the sniper from Saving Private Ryan) deserve his own movie, and at least more than the five or six minutes he gets here?
(Without a doubt.)
Ø Is Michael Ealy going to be perfect casting for the inevitable Obama movie?
(Probably so, but he’s got some aging to do first.)
Ø Was that the Latin broad from Predator?
(Yes, it definitely was.)
Ø How long can a filmmaker go when the audience is lagging behind by such a wide margin?
(I’m seriously asking this question here, of the filmmakers in the reading audience, amateur and professional alike. How long? Literally, for how many minutes? Because Seven Pounds keeps you lagging for a long, long time – long, as in 154 minutes long (the movie clocks 158 minutes in total). Seven Pounds is like a speedboat that treats its audience like a parasailer being yanked along in the air at speed.)
Ø Can I in good conscience recommend this movie to everyone who reads this article?
Ø Will anyone who does read this article and then goes to see this movie have PLENTY to talk about with their friends afterwards?
(Oh yes. I guarantee it.)
Ø Is there anything else I should write before closing?
(Will Smith and Jon Abrams ask that you all, please, don’t text and drive. Thank you.)