Seven Pounds suffers from the fact that I am a genius. Yes, it's true. If I were a blithering idiot, Seven Pounds would have been a much better film, at least it would have been from my perspective. A few days ago, I bragged that I suspected how this movie was going to end and joked that I would not reveal my suspicions so I could lie in case I was wrong. Realizing the hit given to my credibility by that statement, I will say now that my suspicions were correct and that my general ideas of the movie's plot and how it would end turned out to be true. All the clues are in the title and the trailer. The movie's first 30 minutes filled in all the details so that I was put in the position of knowing the insane plan that Will Smith's character had undertaken and hoping that someone would be able to put a stop to it.
Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent whose actions aren't supposed to make sense until the end of the movie. Why was he so cruel to a blind customer service rep (played by Woody Harrelson)? Why is he moving out of his beautiful beach house and into a fleabag motel? Who's the boy named Tim? And who are the people whose names he invokes when his dedication to his plan begins to waiver? I will only say that they play a part in what I described as his insane plan and my, oh, my what and insane plan it is. The reason his plan is so insane is because events and the guilt and depression he has incurred because of them have driven Ben Thomas insane. I'm surprised by how many film critics and regular moviegoers have missed this. Oh, he's not violent. He doesn't hear voices that tell him to kill or to masturbate on his feces but do not be fooled by Ben's rational demeanor and calming smile. Ben Thomas is a man who did something for which he cannot forgive himself and has broken under that burden and now feels that the only way to redeem himself is to do something horrible.
Ben Thomas must have amazing powers of persuasion since he's managed to convince Dan (Barry Pepper), a lawyer who is also a life-long friend, to assist him. I don't know how a good friend could be talked into doing what Dan agrees to do. If Ben had come to me with his crazy ideas, I'd have gone to his family and made damn sure he was locked up. Ben's brother, whom we see from time to time, knew something was going on but didn't realize how truly serious it was until it was almost too late. The only hope for pulling Ben back from the brink is a woman named Emily Posa.
Played by Rosario Dawson, Emily Posa is a woman who is slowly dying of a congenital heart defect. She also plays a role in Ben's plan. He didn't intend to get to know her in any serious way and she didn't intend to become dependent on his company and his kindness, but both of those things happened and they begin to fall in love. It really wasn't fair for Ben since it would be very difficult even under the best of circumstances to avoid falling in love with Rosario Dawson and it's impossible here where she's alone, vulnerable and in need of someone to help alleviate the fear of her impending death. It's a testament to Will Smith's acting ability that he never has to say out loud that his love for Emily is making him doubt his choices. Whether it will be enough to pull him back from the brink is another matter.
The payoff most moviegoers will receive from Seven Pounds comes when all questions are answered and you receive what M. Night Shyamalan has called a Paradigm Shift where you suddenly realize the significance of what you have been watching and see the logic behind what, up till then, had appeared to be nonsense. Since I figured it out early, my payoff had to come mainly from Will Smith's performance. He's the kind of actor who makes you root for Ben, who infuses him with the certainty that his actions are correct and are the only way for him to make up for his sins. They aren't, of course. As I've said here and to some fellow audience members, Ben's actions were the actions of a man who struggled so hard against his guilt and his grief that he was driven mad as a result.
So, did I like it? Yes, I liked it as a character study of a good man who makes the wrong choices because of his warped view of the world. Most others will like it because of the mysteries involved. They will say, "Oh, of course," at the end and wonder how they missed all the clues.
I wonder if, these days anyway, there's another actor who could have made enough people come out in cold and snowy weather and get them to watch a movie that deals with depressing subject matter during the holiday season. The very idea is madness, which probably made them identify with the character even more.
*Using today's exchange rate, this is the current value in American money of seven pounds.