Will Smith must be cinema illiterate. Maybe that’s why he frowns throughout Seven Pounds. A glib, charming movie star—but resourceless actor—Smith must think scrunching-up his face and looking worried for two hours shows serious concentration and emotional gravity. Apparently, he is unaware of the ways that movies and movie stars communicate depth and sincerity. Seven Pounds circles around the moribund mystery of Smith posing as IRS agent Ben Thomas who stalks six desperate, handicapped people (all photographed in shades of green and brown like David Fincher creatures). With every grimace, Smith gets further away from why his movies are popular. Pressing profundity as in The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith opposes the history of movie-going benevolence.
As Thomas befriends strangers then endangers himself—for reasons unexplained until the last 15 minutes (but involving a symbolic jellyfish)—Seven Pounds turns some tear-jerking anecdotes into saccharine denouements and an unconvincing romance with Rosario Dawson as a dying heart patient. This manipulation proves Smith is unaware that serious Hollywood love stories once combined self-sacrifice and compassion, faith and humanism without insulting our intelligence or exhausting our patience. He should immediately dive into the new Frank Borzage box set and discover how great melodrama works. In Happyness Smith desired the mass-identification that Borzage achieved with actors Spencer Tracy, James Dunn, Charles Farrell; but Seven Pounds proves he can’t find artful, spiritually committed collaborators.
Did Smith meet director Gabriele Muccino at Sundance and figure this Italian hack must be Fellini? Muccino shows no sense of narrative economy (Smith should see Fellini’s I Vitteloni); he drags out lachrymose plot developments (Smith should see DeSica’s Shoeshine); and encourages Smith to fake humility by acting glum (Smith should study Marcello Mastroianni in Visconti’s White Nights). It also wouldn’t hurt if Smith perused Brother John, Sidney Poitier’s 1970 Messiah movie. Throughout Seven Pounds, Smith looks tired and drawn but not half as weary as audiences who subject themselves to this, the year’s least-enjoyable movie concept.
Directed by Gabriele Muccino, Running Time: 123 min.
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