Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Jumaat, Februari 27, 2009

#151. Cinema: A riddle for a tearjerker


Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper, Michael Ealy

THE movie opens with its ending: a tired and frazzled-looking guy (played by Will Smith) calls 911 to report a suicide. When the voice at the other end asks, “Who’s the victim?”, he answers: “I am.” Okay, now that director Gabriele Muccino (working on a screenplay by Grant Nieporte) has given the ending away, there is nowhere else for the narrative to go except backwards — in a series of jumbled-up flashbacks that seem designed to confuse the audience.

The title probably refers to the “seven pounds of flesh” debt from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.However, the film is not a mystery thriller like The Sixth Sense where its “curiosity factor” evaporates once we catch on that Bruce Willis’ character is a ghost.

In Seven Pounds, even though we can guess the gist of what’s happening, Muccino has put in place many puzzles and plot holes that need to be filled.

In the first half of the film, none of what you see makes much sense or seem to be of dramatic significance.

In the opening scenes, for instance, we see that Smith’s Ben Thomas is an IRS investigator (taxman) who has a list of people that he needs to work on.

One is Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson), a blind customer service employee whom Ben insults on the phone, seemingly for no reason.

Then there is Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a heart patient in need of a transplant whom Ben goes all out to help — not only with her taxes but also her gardening!

Later on, Muccino starts setting up more plot pieces — like a deadly jellyfish that Ben keeps as a pet in his motel room; his flashes of a fatal car accident; a deal Ben makes with his lawyer friend Dan (Barry Pepper), and another he has with a woman (Elpidia Carrillo as Connie) who is a victim of physical abuse by her husband.

These pieces fall into place at the end of the movie and that’s when curiosity may give way to incredulity.

Seven Pounds is Smith’s second movie with Italian director Muccino — after The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007.

Here, however, Muccino’s aim seems to be the pursuit of tears given the emotionally-charged sequences Smith has with Dawson.

These, by the way, form the touching love story that lends depth and meaning to the movie.

Some may find the proceedings too manipulative and tacky while others, especially the women in the audience, may succumb to the tearjerker.

If you find this review a bit of a muddle, it is because I have to avoid spoilers for those intending to catch the movie.

Indeed, Seven Pounds demands a great leap of faith from its viewers. If you are prepared to suspend disbelief and buy into the movie’s redemption theme, then you may be swept along by it.

Otherwise, it will be just another highly-contrived Will Smith fable that is not quite the standard of Will Shakespeare’s play.

by - Lim Chang Moh

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