SEVEN POUNDS

Will Smith and Rosario Dawson

Overall Impression – Bewildering!  Frustrating!  Then I gave up trying to figure out why everything was happening and actually started enjoying it.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Ben.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – The movie gets its drive by withholding an answer to this question. Why is Ben doing all these crazy good deeds?  WHY!?  Until all is revealed at the end, Ben alone knows the answer.  So, with the benefit of hindsight:

Professional: improve the lives of seven strangers to atone for killing seven people in a car crash.  Personal: (I think) develop a relationship with Emily, one of said strangers.  Private: find a reason to keep on living.  Or achieve some measure of atonement before he kills himself…  this one’s up in the air.

Who’s trying to stop him? – It might be Emily…  Ben feels he needs to give away everything, including his life, to atone for his past.  But how can he do that when he falls in love and entertains the possibility of living? Ben’s brother is a lesser obstacle, and we don’t even know he’s an obstacle until the end.

What happens if he fails? – He kills himself, I guess.  Truth is, these stakes didn’t exist until the end of the movie, since I had NO IDEA what he was trying to do until then.  Even after that, I still wasn’t sure.  

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Ever since Ben caused the deaths of his wife and a bunch of innocents in a car accident, he’s cut himself off from his family and friends.  Now he’s an IRS agent, universally shunned by all.

Wanderer – When he’s alone, Ben’s chronically depressed, tormented by… something.  But in his IRS get-up, a faux-chirpy Ben seeks out complete strangers, judging whether they’re “good” people worthy of his help.  One of these good people is Emily, a heart patient who takes a liking to Ben.

Warrior – Ben’s good deeds escalate beyond mere tax extensions to giving away his house, his kidney… and more.  As Ben and Emily’s relationship grows, she struggles to understand his motivations, and we get vague hints of the event that triggered everything off.

Martyr – Well… Ben has been giving away everything the entire movie, but if he’s planning to kill himself, are these really sacrifices?  Another muddled martyr element is that Ben eventually wants to be with Emily (I think), but after learning that she’ll die if she doesn’t get a transplant, he has to give up his heart to save her. Only… he just happens to be the one-in-a-million donor she needs.  If Ben deepened their relationship knowing that he probably wouldn’t be around for her, isn’t that just cruel?  He could have donated his heart and not broken hers.  Or… his.  My head hurts.

AND, IN THE END…

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great elements in SEVEN POUNDS, but the lack of clear answers to the FOUR QUESTIONS, or more specifically, where they are answered, robs these elements of any overriding significance.  I really, really wanted to know what everything meant, but by the time I found out, I didn’t care.

I’m so used to understanding the hero’s ultimate goal from the start of a movie (or at least, not at the end), that I was determined to guess Ben’s by observing his actions.  This was novel for a while, but his goal turned out to be so out there that I felt dumb for even trying.

That being said, the movie asks some interesting questions about what makes a good deed “good”, and it’s fascinating to watch how completely different people react to a life-changing offer from Will Smith, no strings attached.  

Dan Pilditch

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4 Responses to “SEVEN POUNDS”

  1. breadandsham January 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    Good points. “Are you a good person?” is such an interesting, tragic, and unfair question to be asking of others. It is interesting that our society arbitrarily chooses who is and is not worthy of acceptance. Our standard is exactly that, our own.

    You are right, that the film doesn’t help us with the answer, but it’s a good starting point to ask the question. It’s silly that we think someone else is worthy of our forgiveness, love, mercy, vengeance, hatred, jealousy, etc, all on some sort of “goodness” meter. It needs to be exposed that we are not as good as we think. Inside, I am every bit as selfish as Tim (who poses as his brother Ben).

  2. Raquel Yosephine January 6, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    Hot article.

  3. danpilditch January 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    breadandsham,

    thanks for your post! Your highlighting of the movie’s (many) questions got me thinking about how movies affect the audience.

    What’s more effective? A movie that asks a moral question and provides a compelling answer that (hopefully) changes the way the audience sees a particular subject? Or simply posing a questing so that the audience can agonize over it when the expected answer isn’t provided?

    After i got done whining about how the “Hollywood answer” wasn’t served up, i started coming up with “better” endings, “different” plot points, and ideas of what “should” have happened. Then I noticed… “Hey! I’m thinking about this movie’s themes more than other recent movies I’ve seen!”

    Is that a good or bad thing? The movie certainly affected me… but in a good or bad way? I’m debating a few decent moral questions, but is that because the movie intentionally didn’t answer them, or failed to? IMO, it’s impossible to say.

    That said, I paid ten bucks see it, so I’m gonna get my money’s worth. The questions remain unanswered…

    — Dan.

  4. Victor July 7, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    What happens if he fails? Actually, he’ll continue to live with the guilt of killing seven people in a car crash, including his fiance.

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