This Film is NOT a Future Release.
The Following Preview has been Archived.
December 5th, 2007:
The story centers on a man who inadvertently falls in love with a woman while attempting to kill himself.What to Expect:
Sometimes, mystery is a good marketing tool. If people don't know what the heck a movie is about, it can make them want to see it, if they're intrigued by the tidbits they're given by the studio. Remember those trailers for "The Matrix" with Laurence Fishburne
intoning, in that stentorian voice of his, "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." It's hard to remember, given how ingrained the entire Matrix concept is in our collective pop culture consciousness, that before the film came out, it was a big mystery. "What is The Matrix?" We were all dying to know. We were dying to know how the Matrix made Keanu Reeves
dodge bullets all slow-mo. We were dying to see how super ninja kung fu fighting fit into all this. Article continues below
The problem with this strategy is that the answer has to be as intriguing as the riddle. Just ask M. Night Shyamalan
how well audiences react when their expectations aren't met in that regard.
Which brings me to "Seven Pounds," the newest entry in Will Smith
's quest to get himself an Oscar, dammit. He has been nominated twice, once for "Ali" and once for "The Pursuit of Happyness
," but has never won despite having recently become the record-holder for the longest streak of films that gross over 100 million dollars. Will Smith is the closest thing to a sure thing that exists in Hollywood, a man who is so likable and whose films are so dependably liked by audiences that even his less successful efforts are still good paydays for the studio. He has long owned the July 4th weekend, but after opening first "Happyness" and then "I Am Legend
" and now this upcoming film in December, it seems he's angling to claim another holiday as Property of Will Smith.
Despite this long history of box office success and a virtually ironclad public persona as a nice guy and dedicated family man, Will could use some shoring up. There's a word that's been haunting him the last few years. It's a word that has all but ruined Tom Cruise
's once-bulletproof career. I'll give you a clue: it starts with "Scient" and ends in "Ology." Rumors have been flying for quite awhile that Will and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith
, who are good friends with Cruise, converted to the Church of Scientology some time ago. It should be noted that merely being friends with Tom Cruise doesn't make somebody a Scientologist...but Smith would not be the first Friend of Tom to find himself giving money to Xenu. Scientology has such negative connotations to the public, and has done such damage to Cruise's image and career, that word went around last summer that Sony Pictures wanted Smith to publicly deny being a Scientologist before "Hancock" opened in theaters. Smith's reps had previously denied that he was a Scientologist, but Sony just wanted the matter reiterated. Word around the campfire is that Smith gave coupons for free E-meter readings (a Scientology device) to cast and crew as part of a wrap gift after the "Hancock" shooting was completed. It could have been a joke. Or not.
Given all this history, I'll just let you decide how to interpret the interesting fact that Connor Cruise
, Tom Cruise's adopted son, is making his film debut in "Seven Pounds," playing Smith's character as a teenager. An amazing coincidence? You be the judge.
So, back to this film. The director, Gabriele Muccino
, is an established Italian director re-establishing himself as a director of American films, the first of which was... hey, this sounds familiar..."The Pursuit of Happyness." On their surfaces, the two films seem to have some thematic similarities. Both appear to be about thoughtful men on their own looking to accomplish some deep, heartfelt goal and experiencing emotional complications in the form of cute children in "Happyness" and an apparently-sick Rosario Dawson in this one. So, what the heck is it about?
No one seems to know. The official summaries are...well, "vague" would be overstating it. "Deliberately murky" would be more accurate. Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who has done some unspecified awful thing which took seven seconds. He is trying to atone by choosing seven strangers for whom he is going to do Something Amazing but Unclear which change their lives forever. One of the seven strangers is Emily, played by Rosario Dawson
; she and Ben form a romantic connection, which introduces complications into whatever the heck his plan is. So, what is he doing for these people? He works for the IRS, is he forgiving their huge tax debt? Is he arranging for them to win lottery windfalls? And what has he done that's so awful? What's his plan?
gives away very little. The advanced publicity gives away even less. Speculation abounds. Nobody seems to know what the actual plot of this film is.
Until now. I have used my mad crazy Internet sleuthing skills to unearth the plot of this movie, gleaned from some people on message boards who claim to have seen the script. I know, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but I've discovered the same plot posted several different places by different people, and it makes complete and total sense, so I'm inclined to believe it. Brace yourself, because it's actually pretty killer.
The gist of this story is that Ben has done something so awful (I still haven't been able to find out what it is, unfortunately) that he has decided to kill himself, and these seven strangers will receive his organs. He has already found people for whom his organs are a donor match, and now he's getting to know them so he can make sure they are worthy recipients, so he can fully atone for whatever it is he did. If you watch the trailer again with this plot in mind, it makes a great deal more sense, and everything that's said that was previously vague now fits. Ben has a list of names, no doubt that he's gotten from the donor registry, and various characters express dismay at his "plan." This also explains the angst in the relationship. If he falls in love with Emily, he can't be with her unless he chooses life for himself, which is death for her. If he goes through with his suicide, she will get the organ she needs, but must live with the knowledge that he has died so that she can live. Talk about a no-win situation.
I think this is a pretty original plot, and one that's rife with opportunities for Oscar-bait performances, to say nothing of genuine drama and emotion. This is a story in which someone will be dead at the end, whether it's her or him remains to be seen. Speculation still swirls around the significance of the title. I think the most likely interpretation is that Ben Thomas is literally giving away seven pounds of flesh, which anyone who's read "The Merchant of Venice" (or seen the movie "Seven") can tell you was the impossible price demanded as payment by Shylock. Why the number seven is so prominent is another question. Thomas states that he ruined his life in seven seconds. He's chosen seven recipients for his organs. Seven is often believed to be a mystical number, perhaps it's just the symmetry. Or perhaps the organs he plans to donate literally weigh seven pounds. The liver alone weighs several, I think. And given that another major character, played by Woody Harrelson
, is blind, no doubt his corneas are one of the other organs. So what could the others be? The human body contains six donatable organs: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestines. Plus the corneas, that makes seven. You can also donate bones, bone marrow and skin, so maybe swap out one of the others. I will bet you a subscription to "Entertainment Weekly" that Emily is supposed to get Ben's heart, because no screenwriter alive could resist that kind of symbolism. Well, except Charlie Kaufman
My point is that this is the kind of plot revelation that is satisfying, and could be more or less so depending on how it's presented. If they somehow manage to let the whole story play out while keeping the audience in the dark as to what Ben's real plan is, which would be difficult but not impossible, then that's a hell of a twist, one that would get people talking and ensure word-of-mouth business. If the film plays straight and lets the audience in on the plan but keeps it from the other characters, that can also be satisfying, if less dramatic and water-cooler-chatter-worthy.
I think this film's a pretty safe bet for a box office success. "Pursuit of Happyness" was a big hit for the kind of film it was, grossing $150 million off a $55 million budget. If "Seven Pounds" gets its expected Oscar nominations, that will guarantee additional business, and they're releasing the film late enough in the year to take advantage of it. Add that to the apparent film truism that people will go see Will Smith in anything, and you've got a recipe for a successful holiday-season drama.In Conclusion:
December is definitely the time when moviegoers enjoy a good tearjerking drama, especially if it's a well-acted, well-written one populated by likable actors. So, how about Will Smith in a story of atonement involving suicide, organ donation and an impossible love affair with Rosario Dawson? That oughta do it.Similar Titles: The Pursuit of Happyness