Seven Pounds, Gabriele Muccino, constructs the story so that a major secret stays hidden from the audience until the very end, making a spoiler-free synopsis of the movie sound either mysterious or incoherent. With that caveat in mind, Seven Pounds stars Will Smith as Ben Thomas, a mysterious IRS agent investigating people who either suffer from a terminal illness or live in mortal danger. While staking out Emily (Rosario Dawson), an artist in need of a heart transplant, he falls in love with her. As he negotiates this new relationship -- and carries on his various investigations -- he also engages in cryptic conversations with a morose lawyer (Barry Pepper), cares for a pet jellyfish, and fends off haunting memories of a car accident.
When a movie keeps a key piece of information away from the audience -- something that explains why a character behaves the way he does -- you have to ask yourself, after it's over, if the story would be any better had all the cards been laid on the table right up front. In this case, the answer doesn't matter -- the film would fail regardless. Granted, if Ben's motivations were clear, the romantic subplot would certainly be more poignant. But on the other hand, his behavior toward other characters -- especially his humiliation of the blind customer-service rep, Ezra (Woody Harrelson) -- would raise questions about Ben's ethics that the film doesn't want to ask because those questions would make Ben less appealing. And, since this is a Will Smith star vehicle through and through, the director can't afford to leave you with any doubt about Ben's saintliness. In order to avoid this pitfall, the director confuses the audience -- distracting us with a series of tear-jerking moments (cue the children's choir and the feeble senior citizens) -- so that we never consider the most troubling aspects of the main character. To make matters worse, Muccino doesn't even do a credible job of keeping the supposedly earth-shattering secret -- an event finally depicted in full during the movie's climax. Expert filmgoers will be able to piece the whole thing together very early on, and most everyone else will know at about the halfway mark. All of this makes Seven Pounds an insult to the intelligence of most moviegoers. leave a comment --Perry Seibert