Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gabriele Muccino|
|Written by||Grant Nieporte|
|Music by||Angelo Milli|
|Cinematography||Philippe Le Sourd|
|Edited by||Hughes Winborne|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Seven Pounds is a 2008 American drama film, directed by Gabriele Muccino, in which Will Smith stars as a man who sets out to change the lives of seven people. Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, and Barry Pepper also star. The film was released in theaters in the United States and Canada on December 19, 2008, by Columbia Pictures. Despite receiving negative reviews, it was a box-office success, grossing US $168,168,201 worldwide.
The protagonist of the film dials 911 to report his own suicide. He then narrates how God created the world in seven days; whereas he managed to destroy his in seven seconds. The introduction of the film establishes that the protagonist intends on helping seven people of his own choice. The reason why at this point remains unknown. For almost each encounter, the protagonist poses as an IRS agent to establish a sense of initial trust.
At home, the protagonist now known as Ben Thomas (Will Smith) phones a meat delivery company to complain about his order and is put through to Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson). During the phone call, Ezra is revealed to be a vegetarian as well as blind in both eyes, prompting Ben to viciously humiliate and taunt Ezra, as well as goading him into retaliating. Ezra however calmly thanks Ben for his call and disconnects.
Ben then travels to a hospital to meet Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), who has a congenital heart condition which is only complicated by her rare blood type, therefore limiting donor viability. Despite being turned away from the hospital staff, Ben watches Emily sleep later that evening but leaves as she wakes during the night.
Ben arrives at a care home for the elderly to meet with Stewart Goodman, an administrator who brags that he was able to cut expenditure at the home by 17%, but also wishes that his own finances could be as equally impressive. Ben notices Stewart's brand new BMW out front despite Stewart's claim that he is insolvent. Despite this, Stewart pleads for a 6 month extension so that he can pay with his bonus in January, whereas Ben leaves with the matter unresolved. On his way out Ben talks to Inez, an elderly resident whom Stewart was attempting to talk to earlier but was unsuccessful in doing so.
Ben informs Inez that he has the capacity to drastically change Stewart's circumstances for the better, but needs to be sure that he deserves it and that if he is a "good man". Inez tearfully confides with Ben that Stewart has barred the nurses from bathing her, after her request to be put on different medication is refused as the original makes her dizzy. Visibly appalled by this revelation, Ben transports Inez from her room to the bathrooms whilst Stewart attempts to perform damage control. Ben angrily demands Stewart show his patients better respect, and ultimately denies his request there and then for an extension.
Ben later meets with Holly (Judyann Elder), a child services employee to ask her the name of someone who is in dire need of help, but is too proud to ask. Holly directs Ben's attention to Connie Tepos, a Latin immigrant whose boyfriend beats her regularly, and almost killed her in the previous year. Connie is too scared of repercussions to press charges, leaving Holly powerless to help. Ben travels to Connie's home still posing as an IRS agent, but upon revealing that he knows of her genuine situation Connie demands he leaves. Ben leaves his calling card just in case she changes her mind.
Several days later, a scared and desperate Connie calls Ben to accept his help. Ben arrives momentarily and realizes that her boyfriend has beaten her again. Ben gifts her the deed to his beach house, to provide her and her children a safe home.
George and Nicholas
George (Bill Smitrovich), is the coach of a junior hockey team who had also arranged partial scholarships for some of his players to attend College. George also has kidney failure, prompting Ben to donate his own kidney as a reward for George's good nature. Nicholas (Quintin Kelly) is a younger patient at the same hospital George is at. By chance, Ben decides to donate his bone marrow to Nicholas to help with his treatment.
Ben meets with Emily several times over at her home, he establishes a bond with her Great Dane 'Duke'. Ben asks Emily why she would choose such a large animal, to which Emily responds that the average life span of a Great Dane is seven years, and that they commonly have from heart problems. Emily considers that she chose to take care of something else as opposed to always being taken care of. During the pair's final meeting where Emily cooks Ben dinner, the two finally share a passionate kiss after having long established feelings for each other.
During the evening, the "real" Ben Thomas (Michael Ealy) shows up outside, and demands that "Tim", his brother who was impersonating as "Ben" return his IRS credentials. Tim attempts to leave, but ends up spending the night with Emily. The two play a game of "What If?" With Emily wondering if whether her pager will go off - signalling that a donor has been found for her. Tim wonders if they would both eventually get married and have children together. Emily eventually falls asleep. Tim leaves and heads to the hospital where Emily is being treated at to ask her doctor the chances of finding a suitable donor. When the doctor reveals these chances to be almost impossible, Tim decides to call Dan Morris (Barry Pepper), his life long best friend to announce that "it's time".
Returning to his Motel room, Tim makes two final phone calls. The first goes to Ezra, the blind vegetarian that Tim verbally abused over the phone. Tim profusely apologizes for his actions, but pleads with Ezra that he had to ensure he was a decent person by attempting to get the better of him. Tim then calls 9-1-1 as introduced in the film, before filling a bathtub with ice water. As he is entering the bathtub, Tim reminisces about the night that changed him forever. Driving a Chevrolet Corvette with his wife as passenger, Tim carelessly texts whilst driving, and very nearly collides with an oncoming car. Swerving violently, Tim collides with a Ford E-Series van, causing both cars to roll violently and kill the six occupants of the van as well as Tim's wife. Back in the present, Tim tips a bucket into the water containing a Box Jellyfish, its tentacles wrap around Tim's arm and delivers a sting which causes a quick but excruciatingly painful death.
Having committed suicide in ice water, Tim has cautiously preserved his vital organs - his heart in particular which is donated to Emily. The real Ben meets with Emily, and tells her that a year following the accident he got lung cancer, and required a double-lobe transplant which Tim came to his aid for. Six months later, Tim then gave part of his liver to Holly, the child services employee seen earlier in the film. Emily attends a Church session where Ezra is playing piano to a children's choir. As the performance ends, it is shown that Ezra is now able to see as he congratulates the choir on their singing. Emily makes contact with Ezra, but is so overwhelmed by seeing Ben's eyes in Ezra that she begins to break down into tears. Ezra, seeing her scar from heart surgery, realizes she is Emily, and the two share an emotional hug.
- Will Smith as Ben Thomas (actually Tim Thomas, using his brother's name)
Smith described the reason he took on the role:
Usually with the films that I make there are ideas that I connect to, but lately I've been dealing with the bittersweet in life because it feels more natural. You don't ever get it really the way you want in life. That really fascinates me. As an actor, there are certain parts of a character that you create, and you train yourself to have those reactions and then it becomes hard to stop them when the role is over. You have to retrain yourself. My character in this film is like hot grits. You know you can't shake them off and when you do, it hurts.
Smith felt that the character needed to be a quiet and rather introverted person who does not burn himself out at every possible instance. The character was a contrast to Smith's previous characters, and Smith felt that director Gabriele Muccino's trust in him helped him relax and avoid overextending himself. Smith acknowledged Seven Pounds as a drama film, but he saw it as more of a love story.
- Michael Ealy as Ben Thomas, Tim's brother and an IRS agent, whose credentials and name are "taken" by his brother.
Will Smith handpicked Ealy for the role of the main character's brother. Connor Cruise, the adopted son of actor Tom Cruise and actress Nicole Kidman, was cast in his first role as a younger version of Ben Thomas.
- Barry Pepper as Dan Morris, Tim-Ben's friend and executor of his will
- Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa, a self-employed greeting card printer and Tim-Ben's love interest
- Octavia Spencer as Kate, Emily's caring nurse
- Tim Kelleher as Stewart Goodman
- Woody Harrelson as Ezra Turner, a blind meat salesman who plays the piano
- Elpidia Carrillo as Connie Tepos, a woman in a battered relationship with her boyfriend
- Judyann Elder as Holly, a child services employee
- Bill Smitrovich as George, a junior hockey coach
- Quintin Kelly as Nicholas, a child
- Robinne Lee as Sarah Jenson, Tim-Ben's fiancée
- Madison Pettis as Connie's daughter
- Ivan Angulo as Connie's son
- Skylan Brooks as Choir kid
- Bryce J Harris as a toddler in the social service office
- Bradly J Harris as a toddler in the social service office
- Weston Harris as a child in the social service office
Seven Pounds is based on a script written by Grant Nieporte under Columbia Pictures. In June 2007, Will Smith joined the studio to star in the planned film and to serve as one of its producers. In September 2007, director Gabriele Muccino, who worked with Smith on The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), was attached to direct Seven Pounds, bringing along his creative team from the 2006 film. Smith was joined by Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson the following December to star in Seven Pounds. Filming began in February 2008.
Most of the film was shot in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Malibu, California. Points of interest used in the film include the Travel Inn in Tujunga, California, the Colorado Bar, the Huntington Library, the Sheraton, and the Pasadena Ice Skating Rink all in Pasadena, as well as Malibu Beach in Malibu.
Before the film's release, the title Seven Pounds was considered a "mystery" which the studio refused to explain. Early trailers for Seven Pounds kept the film's details a mystery. Director Gabriele Muccino explained the intent: "The [audience] will not know exactly what this man is up to." Will Smith is reported to have confirmed that the title refers to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, in which a debtor must pay a pound of flesh. In this case, it amounts to seven gifts to seven individuals deemed worthy by Smith's character, to atone for seven deaths he caused.
Seven Pounds was promoted on a five-city tour across the United States in November 2008, screening in Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, St. Louis, and Denver to raise funds for food banks in each region. The film was promoted at a charity screening in Minneapolis in support of Second Harvest Heartland. Since screenings of new films usually took place in Los Angeles or New York City, the choice of cities was unconventional. Smith said, "This is more like the old-school music tours. Different clubs, different cities, meeting people. You get in touch with what people are feeling and thinking, and it's much more personal when you're actually out shaking hands." The actor sought to "get reacquainted" with an America that he felt had an "openness to change" with the country's election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president.
The film was released on December 19, 2008, in 2,758 theaters in the United States and Canada. It grossed an estimated US$16 million, placing second at the weekend box office after Yes Man. The opening gross was the lowest for a film starring Smith since Ali in 2001. The gross was US$5 million less than anticipated, partially ascribed to winter storms in the Northeast over the weekend.
Home media release
The film was released on DVD on March 31, 2009, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is also available to rent or buy on the PlayStation Network in standard or high-definition format. As of July 16, 2012[update], in North American DVD sales, the film has grossed US $28,812,423.
The film received generally negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 27% based upon a sample of 186 reviews with an average score of 4.6/10. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received a below-average score of 36 based on 33 reviews.
Variety's film reviewer Todd McCarthy predicted that the movie's climax "will be emotionally devastating for many viewers, perhaps particularly those with serious religious beliefs," and characterized the film as an "endlessly sentimental fable about sacrifice and redemption that aims only at the heart at the expense of the head." A. O. Scott, writing for The New York Times, said that the movie "may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made."
Positive reviews singled out Dawson's performance. Richard Corliss wrote in Time that Dawson gives "a lovely performance," while Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Dawson's performance "shows once again that she has it in her to be the powerhouse." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times commented on the fact that the audience is kept completely out of the loop as to what Ben is doing, comparing the film to Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï, pointing out how he "finds this more interesting than a movie about a man whose nature and objectives are made clear in the first five minutes, in a plot that simply points him straight ahead."
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- Scott, A. O. (December 19, 2008). "An I.R.S. Do-Gooder and Other Strangeness". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
- Corliss, Richard (2008-12-18). "Yes Man and Seven Pounds: Santas for Hard Times". Time. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
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- Roger Ebert. "Seven Pounds". Chicago Sun Times. December 17, 2008.