You're right, they do smell like peanuts.Seven Pounds is a film that you will think about long after you leave the theater. Conversations and phone calls that were so frustratingly unclear in the midst of the film must be re-conjured, mulled over and made sense of long after the final credits roll. This film is shrouded in mystery, from the main character's tragic past to his plans for the seven strangers he has chosen and the roll they will play in his redemption.
A gaunt and disheveled Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent looking to change people's lives, to "drastically change their circumstances." While not equal to his Ali brilliance, the film is sustained by Will Smith's ability to be at once cold and ambiguous without the audience losing faith that his intentions are ultimately good. More than one supporting character asks, "Who are you?" a question for which he has no answer. The audience will ask the same: Is this a megalomaniac or a man seeking to repay an impossible debt?
The story of Ben's past is told in dreams and flashbacks that never quite work. The transitions between past and present feel forced at times, and the smiling and personable Ben of the past is impossible to reconcile with the haunted character of the present.
Of the seven strangers Ben seeks, the one who touches his heart is the beautiful and fragile Emily (Rosario Dawson, Rent). "The girl with the broken wing," Emily suffers from congestive heart failure and is on the transplant waiting list. Dawson does well in this roll, balancing the character's acceptance of death without losing her hope or spirit, and still asking the elusive question, "what if?" The interaction between Emily and Ben - two seemingly broken people - is tentative and halting as their love story develops.
Directed by Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness), mention must be made of the cinematography that makes this movie all the more haunting. The long shots through rain-streaked windows, blurry backgrounds that suddenly become clear, the detail of a hand, a shoulder, the eyes that remind us that our bodies are made up of parts. Colors are muted and dark, even the Pacific Ocean is toned down to a dreary gray. The world Muccino creates is one of suffering and tragedy, while moments of joy are few and fleeting. Ben and Emily spend moments in a sun-washed wheat field, before they are once again shrouded in rain.
The forward motion of the plot drags at times and the unanswered questions grow frustrating, but the ending is worth it, and will lead to more questions and discussion on the way home from the theater. Although I didn't leave the film thinking this was an amazing movie, it lingered in my mind for days. It's thought provoking, if not entirely enjoyable.