If you were confused by the trailer for Seven Pounds that's because the movie is mostly one long guessing game, meant to have a confusing, slow build-up to a twisty surprise ending. There seems to be such an emphasis on keeping the audience wondering what's going on, and I was frustrated not because I didn't understand the "why"s of the plot but because it's hard to care enough about these characters — even the lead played by Will Smith — to truly want to figure out what the heck's going on.
Mostly I just wished they would stop talking in gratingly general terms ("Remember that thing you took from me?" "Yes, and I remember the thing I gave you, too." "It's all about that pact we made a while ago! Remember the pact? And that other thing?"). This goes on for an absurdly long time and I just wanted to shout "Enough already! Tell us what the deal is so we can all go home!" This is not a good sign. I stuck with it until the end though, so for some of my thoughts on it all, read more.
The movie is basically a puzzling series of events leading up to a climactic end, so in order to not spoil everything, I'll sum up the plot like this: Will Smith plays an IRS agent who carries around tremendous guilt for an event that took place years ago. So, he sets out to find redemption for the terrible thing he feels responsible for by dramatically improving the lives of seven people. When he starts to develop a relationship with one of them, Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), he finds not just redemption but the glimmer of love and hope, even though he knows it can't last forever.
In theory and perhaps on paper, the concept for this film is intriguing, and I can imagine being drawn to it as an actor or filmmaker. But something goes awry on the way to the screen. These are capable actors, Smith is fine in this role and I found his relationship with Dawson's character to be surprisingly endearing at times. There are moments of sweetness and true drama, but they are few and far between and they nearly drown amid the majority of the scenes which plod along at a glacial pace. It all errs on the side of sappy and sometimes it's downright boring. Adding to all this, there's some cheesy metaphoric stuff going on (the woman he loves needs a new heart) that certainly doesn't help the overall melodrama.
With a script like this, in which there's a series of mysterious things happening that we're supposed to be eagerly piecing together, it helps if there's something to keep us interested or if there are tense scenes alternating with the slow and quiet ones. As it is, the narrative is like a reverse death, flatlining for an hour and a half before jolting alive briefly at the end. This ending is, I believe, supposed to be hopeful and sweet in its own way — certainly redemptive. I'm just not convinced that it makes up for the previous hour and a half or so of trudging somberly along toward it.
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures