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||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||US$169.7 million|
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.
In Los Angeles, Ben Thomas cruelly berates a sales representative, Ezra Turner, over the phone. Ezra, who is blind, maintains his composure and politely ends the call. At an IRS office after hours, Ben researches a woman named Emily Posa and finds her at a hospital, being treated for a congenital heart defect. His brother calls, but Ben denies having taken something from his house.
At a care home for the elderly, Ben introduces himself as an IRS agent. He meets with administrator Stewart Goodman, who brags about cutting costs despite buying himself a new BMW. Having paid for an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, Stewart asks for an extension from the IRS until he can receive a bonus. Ben asks a resident named Inez if Stewart is a "good man", and she reveals that Stewart is punishing her by refusing to let her bathe. Ben takes Inez to the washroom himself, and angrily denies Stewart’s request for an extension. Ben informs Emily she is being audited, and surprises her at home to assist with her debts, and they begin to bond. He moves into a motel room, where he keeps a deadly box jellyfish.
Ben asks Holly, a child and family services worker, for someone he can help. She directs him to Connie Tepos, a Hispanic immigrant trapped in an abusive relationship. Ben visits Connie and urges her to take action, leaving his business card. He donates a kidney to George, a junior hockey coach who arranged partial scholarships for some of his players to attend college. When Emily is taken back to the hospital, Ben comforts her with a story about a boy named Tim and his little brother, and spends the night at her bedside. Beaten by her boyfriend, Connie calls Ben, who gives her the deed to his own house, providing her and her children with a safe home.
Emily is placed on the priority list for a heart transplant, and Ben takes her home. He initially rejects her attempts to become closer with him, but later apologizes, and she shows him her letterpress printing workshop. At the hospital, Ben donates bone marrow to help treat Nicholas, a young patient. Emily invites Ben over; after a romantic evening, he shows her that he repaired her antique printing press, and they kiss. Ben’s brother arrives, revealing that he is the real IRS agent Ben Thomas; “Ben” is actually Tim, who stole his brother’s credentials to impersonate him. Tim prepares to leave, but spends the night with Emily.
After Emily falls asleep, Tim goes to the hospital, where Emily’s doctor explains that her rare blood type makes finding a viable donor organ almost impossible. Tim calls his lifelong friend Dan Morris, who has promised to execute Tim’s will, and announces, “It’s time”. Returning to his motel room, Tim calls Ezra and apologizes for his earlier cruelty, explaining that he wanted to ensure Ezra was a decent person, and that Dan will be contacting him with a “gift”. Tim then calls 9-1-1 to report his own impending suicide. It is revealed that Tim was once a successful aeronautics engineer; distracted by texting while driving, he collided with a van, killing all six occupants and his fiancée. Submerged in a bathtub of ice water, Tim allows himself to be stung to death by the jellyfish. His carefully planned suicide preserves his organs, and his heart is successfully donated to Emily.
Haunted by his role in the deaths of seven people, Tim was able to save the lives of seven others: when Ben required a lobe transplant, Tim donated part of his lung; Holly received part of his liver; Connie, George, Nicholas, and Emily were saved by Tim’s gifts, and Ezra receives his eyes. Emily meets Ezra, who is now a music teacher and able to see. Ezra, noticing Emily’s heart surgery scar, realizes who she is and they embrace.
- 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
- 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
- Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa
- Octavia Spencer as Kate, Emily's nurse
- Tim Kelleher as Stewart Goodman
- Woody Harrelson as Ezra Turner
- Elpidia Carrillo as Connie Tepos
- Judyann Elder as Holly
- Bill Smitrovich as George
- Quintin Kelly as Nicholas
- Robinne Lee as Sarah Jenson, Tim'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.
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 26% based upon a sample of 193 reviews with an average score of 4.59/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Grim and morose, Seven Pounds is also undone by an illogical plot."  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.
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