‘Seven Pounds’ piles on the twists | AspenTimes.com

‘Seven Pounds’ piles on the twists

Christy Lemire
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

In this image released by Sony Pictures, Will Smith, right, and Rosario Dawson are shown in a scene from, "Seven Pounds." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Merrick Morton) ** NO SALES **

“Seven Pounds” is a clever one, all right, but it might actually be too clever for its own good.

It stars Will Smith as the mysterious Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who drops in on random Los Angeles residents with financial trouble and analyzes whether they’re good or bad. If they’re good, they get the gift of his infinite generosity: a break on their debts, a little extra time to get their affairs in order and perhaps something even more life-altering if he deems them especially fit. (Giving away much more would deplete the film of its supposed poignancy.)

But Smith’s demeanor is so eerily detached and even robotic at times, he makes you wonder whether Ben is functioning as a force of benevolence or evil ” for all of two seconds, that is. Come on, this is Will Smith we’re talking about here. Although he has acting chops that transcend his leading-man good looks and superstar charisma, he’s never played anyone truly, deeply flawed ” not even as a misanthropic superhero in “Hancock.”

Nevertheless, Gabriele Muccino (who directed Smith in the 2006 underdog tale “The Pursuit of Happyness”) and writer Grant Nieporte jump all over the place in time, trying to keep us on our toes. With its many twists and revelations, “Seven Pounds does make you work, which is vaguely refreshing when so much is so mindless.

For a long time, it leaves you wondering, for example, why Ben dresses unspectacularly and drives a junker car but lives in a rambling beachfront mansion in Malibu. At other points throughout the scattershot narrative, Ben emerges from the ocean with water dripping from his perfect six-pack abs, but he also makes a 911 call at the film’s start to report his own imminent suicide. There are allusions to a violent car accident and a deadly jellyfish Ben keeps in a tank in his house, and later in the shabby motel room he calls his new home.

Intriguing? Sure. The filmmakers might have been onto something here, except the script seems so intentionally confusing, it’s hard to feel engaged. Nieporte’s story initiates and drops various subplot threads when it should have focused more on the unlikely relationship between Smith and Rosario Dawson. As one of the chief beneficiaries of Ben’s kindness, Dawson’s Emily Posa literally has a broken heart that he has plans to fix. Dawson is effortlessly lovely as always, and the warm scenes she shares with Smith suggest the kind of classic, tragic weepy film “Seven Pounds” could have been if it had shed its pretensions and stopped trying so hard to wow us with its complexity.

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Muccino and Co. aspire to the kind of seismic “a-ha” you’d discover in an O. Henry short story. Instead, “Seven Pounds” feels closer to the sentimental button-pushing of “Pay It Forward.”

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