There's a delicate rhythm to building a mystery. You can throw in a hundred twists and a thousand red herrings, you can snake through a labyrinth of a plot as slowly as you like, but you'd darn well better throw the audience a bone every few minutes. Otherwise, the viewer gets confused, then bored – or, even worse, figures out the ending an hour too early.
Movie Review: Seven Pounds
By Sean Collier
January 2, 2009
Seven Pounds, the Will Smith tearjerker brought to us this holiday season by Italian auteur Gabriele Muccino, tries desperately to keep us in the dark. The film's first act, a fractured, staccato maze, certainly doesn't invite the viewer to climb on board – on the contrary, it almost defies the audience to find something to grab on to. Just when we're able to find solid ground, the film diverts toward a pedestrian romance, only pausing occasionally to remind us that there's some greater intrigue. Seven Pounds does manage a strong finish, coming out of nowhere with some genuine emotion and fine performances. This merely serves as an indication of what the film could've been, however.
You'll forgive a lack of detail in this summary, as there's very little that can be said about the plot of Seven Pounds without giving away the poorly concealed finale. The basic premise is that Will Smith's character is helping some deserving people out. The challenge is to figure out why.
Smith's performance is easily the film's strongest feature, and he comes quite close to carrying the film. As strong an actor as Smith has become, however, Seven Pounds is fundamentally too awkward for him to lift. The capable and charming Rosario Dawson does what she can to help, but her role is stretched too long and thin.
The script, by rookie Grant Nieporte, is partially to blame, as it is badly in need of some judicious editing and a more focused rewrite. Free of culpability are editor Hughes Winborne and cinematographer Phillipe le Sourd; the film is photographed and put together in a hazy, sun-soaked wash, which does a fine job of highlighting the few compelling moments Seven Pounds can manage. In the end, fingers should be pointed squarely at Muccino. It fell him to craft an unwieldy, complex film into a cohesive whole; instead, he chose a simpler route, and we're left wondering what Seven Pounds could've looked like in more capable hands.