Tom goes to see Seven Pounds, is not impressed
"Hey, what time are you free tomorrow? I'm quite excited about seeing this film"
It was with this seemingly innocuous dialogue between my friend Nicole and myself that the tragic series of events that led to me having to endure the predictable snore-fest that is Seven Pounds began. This should not suggest I was always critical about the film; in fact, the opposite is true - I find Will Smith to be a pretty decent leading man, and the movie's trailer had seemed at the time original and intriguing. Armed with my trusty bag of reduced Haribo and a delicious Frijj milkshake, I met Nicole in Bristol's swanky new shopping center and we made our way into the Showreel cinema.
With the trailers finished and the predictable Orange advert out of the way, I stopped rooting around in my bag of starmix for a foam egg, and started paying attention. The very first scene reeled me in - Will Smith, clearly in some distress, dials 911 and reports a suicide in his motel. When the policewoman on the other end asks who the victim is, Smith replies 'I am'.
"This seems pretty interesting", I thought. "I hope the rest of the film is like this".
Literally from this scene onwards, the film becomes slow, boring, utterly predictable and a big waste of everyone's time. For the uninitiated, there has been an awful lot of hype surrounding the film's ending, with critics being asked by the movie's creators not to give anything away in their reviews, and with the trailer and the movie poster spouting the same, slightly misleading tagline: 'Seven names. Seven strangers. One secret'.
I'm not big on spoiling things so I'm not going to tell you what the ending is, but I just want to let it be known that I figured out the entire ending (and the reasons for it) within the first 15 minutes of the film and, after having read a bunch of reviews online, I don't think I'm alone in having achieved this. Now I know there's a whole myriad of reasons for what makes a film engaging and why people watch movies in the first place, but at the most basic level, I personally believe people go to see movies and then remain seated for however long the director wants them to for two main reasons:
1) They want to be entertained
2) They want to find out what happens at the end
With these two simple things in mind, imagine how dull it was for me to sit through a movie where I'd immediately realised what the ending was going to be, and then had to endure almost two additional hours of a laboriously slow film where every single scene and every single bit of dialogue was leading towards this obvious and unconvincing ending. Imagine, if you will, a terrible comedian who starts telling a joke that everyone already knows the punchline to, and it's not a very good joke in the first place. Except the comedian doesn't know this, and ploughs along anyway, making sure to deliver the build-up as slowly and boringly as possible. Should we be surprised when he finally gets to the punchline and no-one is amused? No. Should we be surprised that I thought Seven Pounds was a load of steaming donkey turd and a terrible way to start my cinema-going adventures of 2009? No.
Will Smith presumably calling his agent, enquiring what the hell he was thinking at the time.
The plot revolves around Will Smith's character going from place to place in about ten different cars speaking to people who are all in need, or to be more specific, who are all in need of body parts. Amongst these nice but needy people is a guy who has gone blind, a woman who has a bad heart, and a hockey coach who desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. However, Smith isn't just looking for needy people, he's looking for needy people who are all, deep down, really good. If the film had of showed him going from place to place and finding some good people in need, and some bad ones who were trying to fool him, this could have made for a fairly interesting film. As it stands, there is one single scene where he meets a bad person, and that's it - the rest of the film is just him finding nice people and helping them. He also predictably falls in love with the woman who needs a heart, and this slow-moving relationship takes up most of the second half of the film.
If the above paragraph reads rather boringly, then I have successfully managed to convey what watching Seven Pounds feels like. However, I actually think the film's editors realised this too, and if you want proof, you only need to spot one thing when watching the film:
THE ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE SOUNDTRACK.
Words cannot really convey how bad this is, but I'll give it a go. Imagine you're watching a film and there's a shot of an upset, dying old woman in a care home. This is certainly not a happy image and I imagine most films would use some subtle music to help convey what we're supposed to be feeling, or they might even omit any music altogether and just let the scene speak for itself. Not so, however, in Seven Pounds - if you're apparently supposed to be feeling sad, the strings suddenly rise, the music swells up and the sound editors basically try to vomit sentiment all over you. We're not even talking about overly-dramatic music here, we're talking about an ice-cold shower of music, a veritable wall of solid cheese that washes over you and leaves you stinking of poorly-conveyed emotion.
I'm not kidding, Seven Pounds honestly has the most leading soundtrack I've ever heard in any film. In one hilariously embarassing moment Will Smith's character appears to be having a pretty good time, and to show this the editors start playing - wait for it - Feeling Good by Muse. Is it not enough that we can visually perceive that Will Smith is feeling pretty decent? Are we so stupid that we need a song that literally says "I'm feeling good" in it before we understand the emotions in the scene? I've never seen a film that has such a lack of confidence in its ability to create an emotional response from its audience. Speaking of which, I find it pretty odd to hear that many people cried or almost cried during the film, although I guess some people were just easily swayed by the music. There's also the fact someone cries within the film itself roughly every 10 minutes, although this only created the desire in me to throw-up Haribo into my lap.
I couldn't hear what was being said over the music, and then someone started crying.
It probably wouldn't be very fair of me to go the entire review without mentioning one good thing about the movie, so I'll say this - the acting, for the most part, is actually very good. While Will Smith looks mildly constipated everytime he's trying to convey sadness, Rosario Dawson is very convincing in her role and nearly all the supporting actors and actresses - particularly the main character's best friend - are fantastic. Even better, Woodly Harrelson is in it, and everyone knows Woody Harrelson is the man! He's an award-winning actor and we all love to see him play tough-guy roles, like in Natural Born Killers and No Country for Old Men. When he first appeared in the movie, I was like 'sweet, I can't wait to see what kind of character he plays!'.
He plays a blind, vegetarian beef-salesman.
WOODY HARRELSON PLAYS A BLIND, VEGETARIAN BEEF-SALESMAN.
Now I have no problem with the man himself here, as he plays his part brilliantly. But why did they need him? Why get such a good actor to play this small, relatively-obscure part? If anything, I wish Woody Harrelson had of been the main character, because then I would have seen truly convincing acting and wouldn't have had to watch Will Smith looking like he's trying to hold in a giant dump every single time the film requires him to look upset, which is about NINETY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE MOVIE.
Woody Harrelson being awesome, in one of the twelve seconds he appears in the movie.
I felt pretty cheated when the movie was over, and I've subsequently felt increasingly negative towards the film since seeing it, probably because I've started to remember how interesting the trailer was and how mysterious the film seemed when it started. To sit through two hours of boring dross is bad enough, but to then be presented with a predictable finale which is drawn-out and treated as a complete surprise is practically insulting. Do yourself a favour and give this a miss - the film is wank and hey, by not seeing it at the cinema you'll probably save yourself... seven pounds.
I had to get that in somewhere.
Tom's final verdict: 1 and a half out of 5