Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Peter T Chattaway

Seven Pounds

Recommended Posts

How under-the-radar is Will Smith's new movie? It opens in two days, and we don't even have a thread on it.

Todd McCarthy, Variety:

A movie that, like


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Incidentally, it will be interesting to see which film ends up #1 at the box office this week. You might assume it would be the Will Smith film, but the last time he teamed up with this director, it was for The Pursuit of Happyness, which opened in the mid-20s (easily Smith's lowest opening since Ali came out in 2001; all the other films since then have opened between $43 million and $77 million).

Meanwhile, there is Yes Man, with Jim Carrey in a familiar funnyman role, and while it might seem like he hasn't had a hit in a while (because his last two films were the animated Horton Hears a Who and the B-grade thriller The Number 23, both of which came out in the early months of their respective years rather than during a significant holiday season), his last two films BEFORE that were mid-December comedies of one sort or another that did decent business (I refer to Fun with Dick & Jane and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events).

And then there is The Tale of Despereaux, which is a family film (and those tend to do well at this time of year), but it is not produced by any of the studios that have had success with that genre in recent years (Disney, DreamWorks, Fox); instead, it's produced by Universal, so it lacks a certain brand-name recognition factor.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Will's 'Seven Pounds' Of Family Values

There was a lot of headscratching when Sony moved Seven Pounds from December 12th to December 19th (after Paramount moved Benjamin Button to December 25th), especially when only one studio tentpole opened last weekend. Without a date change, Seven Pounds could have had two full weeks almost to itself. . . . But a rival studio with special knowledge of the situation tells me the date change was really because Will didn't want to hurt his son Jaden's new movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. . . . This is a recurring Smith family problem. You may recall that, over the summer, Will's Hancock came out the same weekend as his daughter Willow's Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. "I told her, 'Daddy loves you sweetie, but I gots to stomp you at the box office,' " Will recounted at the time. But Hancock became a blockbuster, and Kittredge underperformed at the box office. So Will didn't want to crush another of his children's pics. Who says there aren't family values in Hollywood?

Nikki Finke, December 17

- - -

FWIW, I would not be surprised if Seven Pounds didn't have even ONE full week to itself, given how little buzz there has been, and the other factors I mentioned above. Remember, also, that The Pursuit of Happyness was nearly beaten by Eragon two years ago. A Will Smith drama versus an effects-laden fantasy? Will Smith could still have come out on top, but it was by no means a sure thing.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, it came second to Yes Man. And it might even fail to crack $20 million. (Ali and The Legend of Bagger Vance are the only other Will Smith films that have opened below $20 million since Bad Boys opened to $15.5 million in 1995. Those three films are also the only ones since Will Smith became a leading man that failed to cross the $100 million line when all was said and done.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The critics' conversation about this film is a really interesting one. Those who don't like the film say that it's emotionally manipulative; those who do like it say, well, so what? There seem to be very little debate over what this movie does; the debate is entirely over whether what it does is worth doing. So in some ways, reviews of this film seem to say more about the aesthetic philosophies of the critics than the film itself. (I mean, even more so than usual!)


Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with the film is not that THE FILM is manipulative, it is that THE CHARACTER is manipulative and the film is basically on his side. If I were the Rosario Dawson character, I would be VERY PISSED OFF at the Will Smith character by the end of this film. He simply has no right to go around playing God with people's lives the way that he is -- especially when he is doing so as an act of putative self-redemption -- much less messing with their heads the way that he messes with hers.

FWIW, I love this line from A.O. Scott's review:

For all its pious, earnest air,


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, the screenwriter - Grant Nieporte - is a Christian. Which, depending on if/how you like to categorize these things, means three of the biggest movies of the past two weekends (Seven Pounds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Yes Man) were all heavily influenced by the work of self-proclaimed Christians. (Nieporte, Smith, Derrickson, Carrey)

Edited by popechild

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

popechild wrote:

: FWIW, the screenwriter - Grant Nieporte - is a Christian.

I wondered about that, when Expelled co-writer Kevin Miller mentioned that Nieporte was a friend of his.

: Which, depending on if/how you like to categorize these things, means three of the biggest movies of the past two weekends (Seven Pounds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Yes Man) were all heavily influenced by the work of self-proclaimed Christians. (Nieporte, Smith, Derrickson, Carrey)

I don't know about Carrey (the last interview I read, I thought he said he was a Buddhist, but maybe that was the reporter's assertion and not Carrey's). But if the critical and audience reception to Seven Pounds and The Day the Earth Stood Still are anything to go by, then the Christian influence on mainstream movies might not be working out so well. I mean, apart from plot holes and everything, critics, whether secular or Christian, have been tearing these films apart for getting their spiritual and/or religious themes wrong, too. And it gives me no pleasure to say that, but, well, it's true.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't know about Carrey (the last interview I read, I thought he said he was a Buddhist, but maybe that was the reporter's assertion and not Carrey's).

Yeah, I could be wrong about that. I'm remembering off some quotes from the Ace Ventura days if I remember correctly, so who knows.


"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who knew Jeffrey Wells and Movieguide would agree on something? Movieguide writes:

There are a couple moral and theological problems with Will Smith


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sr. Rose Pacatte:

I am sorry the filmmakers think this is an appealing holiday story that can inspire as did last year


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting running thread in those reviews Peter. Thanks for posting them.

Just for the record, I don't buy the idea that Ben's actions are about "love" in the end. A person who truly "loved" someone would not lie to them, keep lying to them, and then raise hopes that they themselves intend to dash. "Love" is about recognizing and submitting to the "other". What Ben does in this film is pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of that.

I don't know, it's definitely warped, but I don't know if I wouldn't characterize it at least partly as love. At least as it relates to Dawson's character. I'm thinking specifically of the scene where Ben questions the doctor towards the end of the film. At this point, it seems apparent that he really is concerned more with her than with himself, and does what he does (or goes through with doing what he already planned to do) against his growing desire not to for her ultimate well-being. This is the one case where it feels like he's thinking ultimately of the other and not of himself.

As always, you have to wonder what role the studio, the big-time movie star, and the various possible uncredited script doctors had in shaping a movie like this. But some of the biggest problems with this particular movie are pretty fundamental to the story. I mean, without them, this movie pretty much wouldn't exist. So if this movie was, in fact, conceived and written by a Christian, then I'd be interested in hearing about the development of this particular script, and whether any of these moral and theological responses had been anticipated, and what the response to these responses would be.
FWIW, I found this article (I linked to page 2 of it) that contains an interesting tidbit.

Smith too had a few notes, including revising the original fantastical ending to make it more relatable. "That turned out to be a great note because it allowed me to bring the love story (involving a cardiac patient) full circle in a way that I never had in my earlier drafts," Nieporte says.

I'd love to know he's talking about there, specifically.

Sr. Rose Pacatte:

I am sorry the filmmakers think this is an appealing holiday story that can inspire as did last year


"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that how one reacts to the film may depend on whether one feels that the film is on Ben's side or not. I may have read here that the film does root for Ben. I'm not so sure. I think it presents Ben as a

man depressed and suicidal after feeling responsible for the death of 7 people. The journey of his character is a journey towards his own death. He doesn't really change throughout the film. This is his motivation throughout.

There is one point where Ben second guesses his plan and thats when he goes to the hospital to ask how much of a chance Emily as of receiving a heart. Because if he doesn't have to give his, then he could possibly imagine having kids with her. Maybe the moment he realized the chances are about 3% is when that one act is out of love. He was ready to change his suicidal mission if he received good news from the doctor. Because he didn't receive good news, his new decision to die is based on something else.

Either way, I think the movie could have portrayed Ben as more depressed, angry, and grieving. And as a man who could not live with what he had done. If this has been done, then the movie would have been seen more as a dragged out suicide. Certainly not heartwarming but more fitting with everything that happened in the film. And I can't imagine the film wants us to root for Ben's death, this man it has portrayed as altruistic albeit misguided up to that point.


"I am quietly judging you" - Magnolia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm wondering what you all think of the striking difference of reaction between IMDB users and Rotten Tomatoes critics.

Currently at 27% on rt, Seven Pounds is at 7.6 at IMDB. I understand the distinction between the sites is mainly between critics and regular folk. I found that in the past that the general public is much more willing to be emotionally involved in a film without calling it manipulative. That's my best guess at the big difference for this film. Any other thoughts?


"I am quietly judging you" - Magnolia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steven Zeitchik spins the numbers:

So what's the lesson there? "Pounds" fell notably short of the $26 million "Happyness" earned its opening December weekend two years ago. But given that box office overall fell nearly 50% even from last year, given the fact that there were no wide-openers for adults like Jim Carrey's "Yes Man" that year ("Eragon" and "Charlotte's Web" were that weekend's two biggest openers), given the difficulty of the material, Sony and the Smith camp shouldn't despair too much -- at least this week, before things get super-jammed with "Marley & Me," "Bedtime Stories" and "Button" next week.

In short, call it a verdict for material but not totally against the star. And call it comfort, recession-style. You didn't do great. But it could have been a lot worse.

popechild wrote:

: This is the one case where it feels like he's thinking ultimately of the other and not of himself.

I disagree. Anybody who

sleeps with a woman, raises her hopes with talk of having kids together, and then goes and kills himself and has his heart stuck inside her body without warning her about his plans whatsoever

is not putting the "other" first in any meaningful way. He is not giving her a SAY in her own life, and what's more, he is actively increasing the level of disappointment that she will feel. The Rosario Dawson character should be one Seriously Messed Up Person by the end of this movie. But I don't think the movie wants us to see her that way.

: I'd love to know he's talking about there, specifically.

Yeah, me too.

Spoon wrote:

: It seems that how one reacts to the film may depend on whether one feels that the film is on Ben's side or not. I may have read here that the film does root for Ben. I'm not so sure. I think it presents Ben as a

man depressed and suicidal after feeling responsible for the death of 7 people. The journey of his character is a journey towards his own death. He doesn't really change throughout the film. This is his motivation throughout

.

I agree with your characterization of Ben. And I do agree that the film presents him as this kind of character. But how are we supposed to feel at the end of the movie? When

Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson meet

, are we supposed to come away thinking that this was ultimately a good thing, or ultimately a bad thing? When

the rules are broken so that an organ donor can dictate who gets his organs -- and those people happen to be persons that he has met, personally --

does the movie encourage us to question the propriety of all that, or are we supposed to come away thinking that he did a good thing?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Morality Suspended in Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds illustrates the power of cinema, in which a filmmaker can manipulate a willing audience to the point where, against their better judgment, cowardice becomes heroism. However, it also takes the viewer down a dangerous road, one where selfishness equals generosity, and wrong becomes right.

Sarah Hanssen, The Curator, February 6


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can anyone think of any films that relate in theme to Seven Pounds? My movie discussion group has started a smaller follow up viewing where we watch a film that deals with the same topic to our main meeting.

For example, we just watched "Winter Light" as a follow up to "Doubt".


"I am quietly judging you" - Magnolia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...