Friday, December 2, 2011

Seven Pounds.

Seven Pounds (Gabriele Muccino, 2008)

Category: Sad film about weight and/or currency. Here is a helpful Venn diagram to show where the film fits in the spectrum of sad films about weight and currency.

This is also a sad Will Smith vehicle. Will Smith is the biggest movie star in the world at the moment, and as such can star in pretty much any movie he wants to. That he chose to star in this sadfest to me validates the existence of this blog. Even Will Smith wants to get his sad on! It’s like when the cool kid in school has the same sneakers as you do. The blog is nothing if not in with the in crowd.

My familiarity with this issue: As a skinny unemployed man, I’m lacking in both weight and currency at the moment. I explored this problem on “Deez Poundz,” the first cut off my failed hip-hop album Dia-Beats. (By the way, Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, and I mean, that’s cool, good for him.)

I don’t think Will Smith is a Scientologist, but he may as well be at this point. He has reached a near-Cruiseian level of weirdness in my book, mainly on the basis of how he’s pimped out his young children. This trend started way back with “Just the Two of Us,” and has continued up to his current effort to have his family take over the world. (At twelve, Jaden starred in the remake of The Karate Kid, which I refused to see, and Willow’s burgeoning music career has included the (s)hit song “Whip My Hair,” released when she was NINE years old.)

Meanwhile, Will Smith hasn’t made a movie since this one in 2008. You know, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like it when people have easily-defined roles. Teachers teach, writers write, movie stars star in movies. No one cares about your kids, Will. You’re like a mom who keeps posting Facebook status updates about the cute things that the little one did today. Sure, you’ll get a few pity likes out of it, but everyone secretly resents you for it.

Most importantly of all, sister of the blog Lauren Krizel saw this in theaters, and famously said that this movie was the worst she had ever seen. I’m pretty sure I made her tell me what happened, because I was sure that I would never see it. Then I started this blog and here I am. So I kind of know the big twist ending, I think. We’ll see how much I remember.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Haunted by a secret, Ben Thomas looks for redemption by radically transforming the lives of seven people he doesn't know. Once his plan is set, nothing will be able to stop him. At least that's what he thinks. But Ben hadn't planned on falling in love with one of these people and she's the one who will end up transforming him.”

What I thought of the movie: This movie made me feel many emotions. Anger, chief among them, but let’s not forget about rage. I was bewildered, I was uncomfortable, I was hateful (and I think this movie is about how we should help other people or something like that, but it clearly didn’t work, because I just want to injure everyone involved with it). The movie is morbid, and stupid, and manipulative, and it features the worst ending to a movie I have ever seen. I cannot think of another one that comes close. In short, Seven Pounds tried to do a bunch of different things and failed spectacularly at all of them. In a way, it was perfect.

OK. Where to begin. (I’m going to SPOIL it throughout the rest of this post, but if you intend to see this movie and want to remain unspoiled then I don’t want you to read the blog anymore.) Here we go: the movie stars Jesus Christ Will Smith as a man on a mysterious quest. This mysterious quest requires him to be really serious and look sad all the time. And also to be a huge jerk, and stalk people, and steal his brother’s identity, and I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first thing you see in the movie is Will Smith, looking distraught, having just called 911. “There’s been a suicide,” he says. When asked who the victim is, he replies, “I am.” (Technically incorrect. “There will be a suicide” would have been more accurate. It's not even ten seconds into the movie and they're improperly conjugating verbs.) He says, in voiceover, “In seven days, God created the world. In seven seconds, I shattered mine.” (Seven is a motif.)

So he’s done something bad, and he’s looking for atonement via identity theft, stalking and eventual possible suicide. That’s your film right there. (His brother is an IRS agent, and Will steals his identity to find people who might be “good” and deserving of some mysterious gift that he’s going to give them.) He has to test them, though (because Jesus said testing people was cool and totally the thing to do). We see him berate Woody Harrelson (playing, if you can believe it, a blind vegetarian beef salesman) over the phone to test whether or not he is slow to anger. After this conversation, he hangs up, gets real upset, destroys a chair, and intensely recites the names of seven (MOTIF) people. This is the second scene in the film.

His main target is the lovely Rosario Dawson, a woman with congestive heart failure. He creeps into her hospital room after visiting hours are over, and then sits in a parked car with the windshield wipers going, which, aside from being as creepy as anything, is a real waste of electricity. Why not switch those wipers off, Will? You’re just sitting there doing nothing. You’re gonna drain your battery! (Will Smith’s acting style can best be described as “I really want people to be impressed by how serious I am in this movie.”)

Rosario (and others) are (Microsoft Word says that “are” is incorrect here, because the subject is technically just “Rosario,” but then it would be “Rosario (and others) is,” which sounds stupid, and this is somehow making me angrier about this stupid movie), but yes anyway, Rosario (and others) ARE initially creeped out, but eventually warm to him because… honestly, I don’t know why they do. It doesn’t make any sense. They do because the script tells them to. At one point, when they’ve started to forge a romantic bond, Rosario (who does the best that she can with this tripe) says, smiling, “I don’t really know anything about you or where you came from, but… you keep showing up.” This is exactly what women say to people are stalking them as they are dialing 911.

There’s a lot of other information presented without context. Will has a pet jellyfish. (I don’t even want to talk about the jellyfish. I’m so terrified of jellyfish.) Barry Pepper is in it for like five minutes as Will’s friend. I don’t remember one thing about his character, other than that they had a conversation on a golf course. (Will just walks right up to him and some woman as they’re playing, which was also creepy; it reminded me of when Sayid did that in season four of Lost, when he’s going around being Ben Linus’s personal hitman.) The movie is reliant on nonstop music to cue the moods and establish the tension. At one point they play Muse’s cover of “Feeling Good,” a song that describes the emotional state of exactly no one in the movie (or watching the movie, for that matter).

OK let’s just cut to the end. After a confrontation with his brother, who realizes something fishy is up, Will does the do with Rosario, and then chooses that moment (right when Rosario has fallen in love with him) to leave and enact his master plan. And here we learn the whole point of the movie: Will Smith once was texting while driving and caused a car accident that killed seven people. In order to atone for this act (for which he was neither arrested nor served any time, if the movie can be believed), he has decided that he will donate seven of his organs to seven people. Organs! Seven of them! (What a motif.) He got the idea for this when he donated a lung lobe to his cancer-stricken brother. He proceeded on to do four more, apparently (some hockey coach, some child services lady, who cares, we don't really get to know them).

And now for his grand finale, he, of course, donates his heart to Rosario Dawson, and his eyes to Woody Harrelson. This, of course, requires him to commit the suicide that he claimed had already committed way back when the movie started. To kill himself, he gets in the bathtub with his jellyfish OHMYGOD WHAT. 

That is what happens. He dies, the others get the organs, and the movie ends. I don't even know what else to say.

How I related to the movie: For most of the film, my anger was borne out of the filmmakers’ choice to withhold vital information: namely, what the hell it is that is happening in the movie. (I kind of knew, from that three-year-old conversation with my sister, what the idea was, so I tried to put myself in the mindset of someone who was going in fresh.) By the end of the film, that anger was replaced by the new anger of actually knowing what the hell just happened in the movie. To be fair, withholding information is often what telling stories is all about. When it's done well, it's really awesome and satisfying to audiences. But this movie is not artful, it's arbitrary. It does not create suspense, but rather unease, and not the good kind of unease.

And the worst part is finally knowing what the filmmakers were trying to do, and hating them all the more for it. Will Smith, as he is in so many of his films, is meant as a messianic figure, but the questions surrounding his capricious quest are numerous. They include, is it fair to decide who gets your organs, if they’re not related to you? If it is, what’s the deal with his random screening process? Who is he to play God and decide who is “good” enough to receive his sweet, sweet organs? And above all this is the fact that he’s just a creepy, overly serious, weird dude who I don’t want to watch for two hours, let alone two minutes. Ughhh.

How I felt after the movie ended: I don't remember. I think I blacked out or something. Good Lord. The ending of that movie is one of the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, unbelievable, over-the-top, crazy-as-balls stupid terrible endings I have ever seen. The protagonist of the film kills himself by sharing a bathtub with his poisonous pet jellyfish. I want you to read that again. And again. 

And then I want you to think about how I willingly put myself through this. I can stop writing this blog whenever I want! (Or just watch better sad movies.) It’s my own fault. And to atone for this, I am going to give seven of you a gift. I hope you guys like really weak, scrawny, diabetic organs.