The Scarlett Johansson Project — #7

I could not wait to get to this one. This is actually the one performance that made me officially choose Scarlett Johansson this year over my other choice.

Casting my mind all the way back to 2014, I remember walking out of the theater a total wreck. For anyone who has ever had an ex, it should leave a significant impact. This in my opinion is the pinnacle of romantic drama. I’m not saying this particular film is the one to beat all-time (although one could probably make that argument), but as someone who prefers emotional realism to the rom-com formula, it doesn’t get much more real than this unique look at the state of modern relationships. Plus the score provided by Arcade Fire is something else, too.

And while this is a post dedicated to Scarlett Johansson, I am compelled to give a shout out to her actually-on-screen co-star. The notoriously strange Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely tremendous here, putting in a sensitive and melancholic performance that proves why he is among the more interesting actors working right now.

Scarlett Johansson as Samantha in Spike Jonze’s Her 

Role Type: Supporting*

Premise: In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need. (IMDb)

Character Background: In a not-so-distant future humans are more socially distant than they are in a real-world global pandemic. There are no six-feet-apart policies at play but instead everyone is attached to their computers — quite literally — as they walk around in their own private one-person bubble. Everything is in reach and yet everyone is inaccessible. Spike Jonze’s smart directing and incredible — indeed, Oscar-winning — writing makes it feel entirely plausible this is the natural course the river of human interaction will take with the advent of hyper-intelligent A.I. In Her, it comes in the form of the OS1, a virtual companion tailored to our unique personalities and that has its own consciousness. (Yeah, in your non-face Siri!) This new tech is designed to keep us on schedule, keep us motivated and focused, and most significantly, keep us company.

An emotionally distraught writer named Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, decides to invest in one. He prefers his OS to have a female voice. Upon boot-up, and after quickly thumbing through a book on baby names (some 180,000 options in a literal split-second), his new friend christens herself Samantha. As the ice is quickly broken, Theodore becomes fascinated by Samantha’s ability to grow and learn. Before long, he’s starting to feel something more than pure admiration for the tech. A friendship evolves into romance and soon Samantha finds her bodiless self experiencing things she never knew she could and as well developing into something far more than anyone could have expected.

What she brings to the movie: a disembodied voice. That is literally it, at least in terms of the tools she has at her disposal to create the character. What she brings to the movie emotionally is truly profound. Jodi Benson had the hovering Weebo. Rose Byrne had an eerie resemblance to HAL-9000 as ‘Mother.’ Now, “Sexiest Woman Alive” Scarlett Johansson has no body as Samantha, a stunningly complex realization of a Somebody who is seeking connection and purpose and wholeness of feeling. It is a deeply affecting performance that encompasses the full spectrum of emotions and that becomes all the more impressive considering it required Johansson to be isolated in a sound booth. She and Phoenix never crossed paths on set.

Johansson’s distinctively husky timbre here becomes an aloe for an aching, bruised soul. Yet it isn’t just the physical qualities of her iconic voice that makes this one of the all-time greatest disembodied performances. The chemistry she shares with her co-star is utterly beguiling and convincing; the ubiquitousness of her presence both strange and comforting. Though in reality she’s a device often tucked into his shirt pocket, she feels like a real person sitting right in the room with Theodore, arms around him, chin on his shoulder.

In her own words: “Samantha makes [Theodore] realize that he can love again. I can’t imagine that I’ve ever had that relationship with my Blackberry. I guess the only thing that has changed my life, or had a positive effect on my life, is Skype or Facetime. Any of those video chats that you can do with your family or your partner or your friend are so life-changing when you are away from home for months and months shooting. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to see somebody.”

Key Scene: From the moment Samantha greets Theodore, with the most bubbly of “Hello’s”, Johannson has us in the palm of her hands.

Rate the Performance (relative to her other work): 

* A fun bit of trivia that I did not know when I first saw the movie back in 2014: Johansson was not the original voice for the part of Samantha. She in fact joined the cast in post-production, replacing Samantha Morton after Jonze decided the part needed something more. With Morton’s blessing, Johansson stepped in and the rest was serious tear-jerking history.


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Photo credits: IMDb; interview excerpt courtesy of Julie Miller/Vanity Fair

 

IMDb Top 250: The Elephant Man (1980)

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I would like to thank Table9Mutant (a.k.a. Mutant, a.k.a. Mutey) of Cinema Parrot Disco for the opportunity to review a film that is, in my estimation, a downright classic. If you have yet to check out her site yet, please drop what you’re doing now and head over there (or after you’ve read this, that works too. 😉 )

So there was this movie I needed to watch for this IMDb Top 250 movie challenge thing I was participating in. I’m using the past tense because this was something I had committed to about . . . a year and a half ago at this point. (Is that about right Mutey? Year and a half? or has it been longer?) The movie was David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and I finally managed to calm my ADHD down enough to where I could actually watch it. However, as I was cueing it up to watch my mind started being a bit of an ass, provoking me and stuff, telling me to flip to a different On-Demand channel, something that was playing a more recent movie.

“No!” I yelled back at it, out loud. Seated on a couch in the middle of a very quiet living room. All I had done over the last several months was learn to procrastinate better. Err, sorry, excuse me — blog about other movies that to me at the time seemed more urgent. Finally I realized I could always procrastinate — yes, that ‘extremely-nonsensical-combination-of-letters-that-if-repeated-enough-over-a-short-span-of-time-makes-even-less-sense-but-somehow-if-you-only-say-it-once-you-know-exactly-what-it’s-referring-to’ word — later on anyway. I had to hit the play button now.

I was transported back to the late 1800s, and Victorian England, where traveling circuses were still all the rage and attracted (semi-) massive crowds. I think it’s only fair to assume those who did not turn out for these shows had some kind of moral compass that wasn’t shattered into shitty little useless bits. After a brief but trippy dream-like sequence, Lynch pans in on a striking man (Anthony Hopkins) moving through the crowds, trying to access a particular exhibit known only as ‘The Elephant Man.’ However a shift in the public perception of what these most bizarre and unholy of events actually represented — not curiosity, but cruelness — led to more than a few of the more obscure and unattractive exhibits being closed down by authorities. ‘The Elephant Man’ was one such exhibit.

Cut to a dank and depressingly dark alleyway somewhere in the London area, where once again Hopkins’ Dr. Frederick Treves is trying to get a glimpse of this elephant-like man. To do so, he must uncomfortably agree to some terms (mostly monetary . . . natch) set by the manager, a horrible man named Bytes (Freddie Jones). When he’s finally granted access Treves is so moved by what he sees that he asks if he may ‘study him’ back at the London Hospital, where Treves is a renowned practitioner of medicine. Or whatever fancy way 19th Century English people referred to medical-y people.

As Lynch’s often powerfully emotive work seeks to explore the relationship Dr. Treves formed with his patient, Joseph Merrick (a breathtakingly good John Hurt), during the time he stayed in this hospital, the narrative gets cozy in this facility, spending much of the remaining time concerned with the passage of time and how it can quite literally heal wounds. Unfortunately, the London Hospital had been deemed a facility fit only for those who could be cured of their ailment(s). Go figure, Victorian England. As if Joseph needed the added pressure of becoming an inconvenience to the bureaucracy. (Random bit of trivia: Joseph’s so commonly mistakenly referred to as John that he is actually ‘John’ in the movie as well, so for the purposes of this review I’ll stick with his movie name from here on out.)

The fabric of this narrative is weaved from a tough, humanistic cloth. The Elephant Man is an absorbing study of one of the most fundamental aspects of existence, the need and desire to fit in and belong to something. For the heavily disfigured John, it’s heartbreakingly sufficient for him to have his presence actually acknowledged by at least one person. Perhaps this explains why he opens up at all to the doctor who found him in the streets and why he said precious little to his circus manager/owner. John sees Dr. Treves as a paternal figure of sorts. At the very least, a reincarnation of his mother, of whom he carries around a picture in his pocket. Since early childhood, around the age of 10 when she passed away, John was always curious to know if she, too, would have rejected him like his father and his new wife had . . . or would she have accepted him for what and who he was?

The Elephant Man is powered by two tremendous performances from Hurt and Hopkins, the former being one of the strongest in all of cinematic history. (Certainly in my history of watching movies, which is like, so totally not a history at all . . . . . ) I feel pretty comfortable making that claim even when factoring in make-up effects that were ahead of their time, effects so convincing they inspired the Academy to introduce an award category the following year specifically for Make-Up Artistry.* Hurt, behind a mask that graphically depicts the brutality of random chance (a.k.a. the nature of genetics), is mesmerick (see what I did there? I spelled that word as if it were his last name as part of the . . . okay, yeah this is pointless information). But for cereals, you cannot turn away from this performance, not for a second. The man is utterly transfixing throughout, in ways that ingeniously distract from the grotesque physical appearance. Physically embodying the character was one step, but giving the man personality . . . that’s another challenge entirely. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hurt. He’s stoic yet nevertheless heartbroken by his past; grateful for Treves’ kindness yet still aware that not everyone can be like him. There’s an aura surrounding John that is wholly indebted to Hurt’s interpretation.

Obviously Hopkins is no slouch either. A complicated individual, Treves is first at odds with the hospital and its ‘curable patients’ policy. Over the months and years of John remaining under his care Treves makes more enemies than just Bytes, who reemerges infrequently throughout, eager to reclaim his prized possession any day. John’s life in the London Hospital begins in isolation, but as the doc makes leaps and bounds in progress with the patient, and the tenuous bond of trust they establish eventuates in John’s transfer to a more social area of the hospital, Treves must face up to the ethical consequences of using John as a pseudo-medical experiment. Hopkins is immensely likable as Dr. Treves, yet he’s perfectly imperfect. He doesn’t immediately question his approach with John, like how one of the first things he did with him was show him off to an auditorium packed with, yes, other medical-y people and laying claim to how this would be his most interesting patient yet. Instead, that question comes much later, after circumstances have changed dramatically. Yet, if we’re meant to feel ambivalent towards Treves, Hopkins does a damn fine job of convincing us of his better qualities.

This is of course not easy material to get through. If you have the patience to sit through some many trying scenes (I’m talking the kind that make you angry), then the upshot will be powerful, a potent reminder that people have an immense capacity for kindness in spite of all that has been shown here. Yet the treacherous scenes that come before are often punishment on the conscience; their bluntness at times visceral and greatly upsetting. Some parts are sickening, while others can be downright unwatchable. How can ignorance beget such monstrous behavior? The kind of freakishness that occurs naturally only in tents that capitalize on monsters. Lynch crafts a beautiful symmetry between John’s unfortunate looks and society’s collective hideousness.

The Elephant Man has been described as one of Lynch’s most accessible films. Structurally speaking it’s as straightforward as a . . . I don’t know, something that’s straightforward — a ruler, perhaps? No, a documentary. As straightforward as a documentary. I hesitate to make that comparison because it makes the film sound uninspired and possibly even lazy. Given the way The Elephant Man flows from one stage of life to the next, ducking and diving in and out of the various rooms that constituted John’s life the film does take on some of the evaluative properties of an in-depth documentary. Lynch didn’t have to concoct a timeline-distorting, reality-bending head trip to leave an impression here. He just needed to let the subject matter speak for itself.

slight correction: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the new category for the following year’s ceremony, but only after they were pressured publicly to do so. When The Elephant Man failed to garner attention for its make-up effects, it was petitioned to have an honorary award bestowed upon it, even though the AMPAS refused. An American Werewolf in London was the first film that won the prize in the following year

Recommendation: Emotionally devastating and difficult to watch on more than one occasion, The Elephant Man is an essential experience for fans of deeply human stories. In this case I think the subject matter far outweighs the talents involved in creating it (with perhaps the exception of John Hurt who makes the product worth the while on his own). This may be a David Lynch film but I will probably remember it more as just a generally classic film with astounding performances. 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 124 mins.

Quoted: “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I . . . am . .  . a man!”

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com

TBT: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Mercifully the month of February comes to an end this weekend. I say this not because of the romantic theme I’ve put everyone through on this feature over the last couple of weeks (I guess that’s bad enough), but because the weather around here has been downright crazy. Last night I put my car in a ditch. Or almost did. I live on one of the nastiest roads in Knoxville and last night I almost fell victim to its twists and turns. Thankfully I was helped out in a matter of minutes. So I’m really ready to move on to some better weather, and hopefully some sunshine.

Today’s food for thought: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Erasing painful memories since: March 19, 2004

[DVD]

The fact that Jim Carrey’s unforgettably restrained performance became overshadowed by universal themes of love and heartbreak isn’t a flaw within Michel Gondry’s psychosomatic journey. Quite the opposite in fact. You could say the same for Kate Winslet’s turn as Agent Orange-haired Clementine and to a lesser extent the collective of Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson. Tremendous performances had a hand in building this production into something memorable but the lasting impact was more a result of everything coalescing together. There are few films that made us feel the way Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made us feel.

Reflecting upon past relationships, whether they went out with a bang or quietly petered out wasn’t the film’s duty; it has always been our own. Eternal Sunshine isn’t fiction, it’s the brutal truth.

I don’t know if I’m a Joel Barish but there has got to be some part of me that has been, at one point or another. Just the same as the women I’ve dated have reflected some qualities of Clementine, regardless of whether this would ever be something we’d ever bring up. In the film, Joel’s recent ex has undergone an experimental procedure to rid any and all memories of him and once Joel learns of this he wants the very same treatment. In the real world we might jump the gun and label this hardcore bitterness, but screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, along with French director Michel Gondry, expressed it not only as a powerful plot device but an indicator that what once was a beautiful harmony between two individuals had finally reached a critical low point, a proper divorce devoid of the paperwork and legalese.

Dr. Mierzwiak (Wilkinson)’s office personified that which we like to dismiss as a useless emotion. In this dreamscape bitterness and regret functioned, and functioned extremely effectively. As Joel undergoes the procedure at home, with the help of sleazy assistants Stan (Ruffalo) and Patrick (Wood) a switch is flipped somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind that tells him this might be a mistake. He soon begins fighting the process every step of the way in an effort to keep Clementine in his life in any capacity. Anyone who has denied they have done something similar is either a rare exception or is lying to themselves, though understandably (and hopefully) there were less wires and computers involved.

The device is ingenious, but I too would be lying if I said that’s the only thing that propelled Eternal Sunshine into the realm of the classic romantic-comedy (if ever there were such a thing). Describing it like that is like describing one’s relationship as a classic, actually. It’s just awkward and doesn’t feel quite right. Performances and chemistry, yeah they were all in attendance and in great abundance — who knew Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey had the potential together to make Leo jealous? — but let’s dive below the surface. It was the handiwork of those behind the cameras, intertwining the real with the psychological world; juxtaposing Joel’s emotional hangover against evidence explaining it. This was a beautiful relationship insofar as it was properly if not painfully documented. The first encounter on the train to Montauk. The house on the beach, Joel and Clementine sitting on its steps. The pair sprawling out on a frozen lake.

Gondry’s film was as much a visual treat as it was a maze through the mind and heart. Innovative cinematography and set design was largely responsible for relaying an entire spectrum of emotion. I’d also like to back up a bit and not totally neglect Jim Carrey here. My brief address of him earlier isn’t indicative of how I feel about him as Joel Barish. He’d been good before in films I have yet to see (I won’t mention those because, you know . . . embarrassment) but he set a new standard in this one, putting such a distance between his Ace Ventura personality and a character that one might reasonable assert as how he might have been growing up in a desperately impoverished Canadian household, maybe sans the disdain for love and Hallmark holidays. The argument purporting Carrey’s inability to emote was officially rendered invalid with Eternal Sunshine.

kate-winslet-and-jim-carrey-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind

5-0Recommendation: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a unique work of cinematic art. For those into that sort of thing, particularly when it comes to diving into the murky waters of discussing relationship problems — how they begin and how they are resolved — I can not think of too many better than this one. It’s at times pretty heavy but manages to uphold a quirky comedic tone that never allows drama to devolve into melodrama. Performances are universally great and for those looking for a more three-dimensional Jim Carrey may I suggest you give this one a look.

Rated: R

Running Time: 108 mins.

TBTrivia: The voice whispering the above quotation is actually a combination of Kate Winslet’s voice echoing itself, and the voice of an editor working at Focus Features. Apparently, the editor was asked to do a quick voice-over, before Winslet arrived, and it was kept in the final cut.

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Photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.imdb.com

Brick Mansions

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Release: Friday, April 25, 2014

[Theater]

While the last film to feature a performance from Paul Walker is as dumb as a brick, there is something haunting, almost immortalizing left behind in the rubble of this, his final role.

Maybe it’s more haunting because the last major role of his is stuck in a picture as stiff and awkward as Brick Mansions, yet another failure of a script from Luc Besson. Or maybe it’s because it features Paul driving a beautiful Mustang around the ghetto of Detroit. Whatever the reason, Paul’s presence resonates very bittersweet throughout the film and gives the film at least one reason to exist. And a pretty good one, too.

But without him, it has literally none.

Camille Delamarre’s debut feature film is short, but even shorter on entertainment and logic. Apparently a remake of Luc Besson’s much-better written District B13 in which a nuclear warhead is set on destroying Paris, to be launched from the central ghetto that has been walled off by the Parisian government for years. A cop and vigilante criminal must gain access inside the dangerous ghetto and stop the threat and rescue anyone who may be trapped inside (both films make sure this is a young, attractive girl. . .because honestly, how could they not?) In 2014, Besson took that script and scrapped whatever creativity and solid writing it possessed and replaced these things with toilet paper scribblings of ideas. This version would come to be known as Brick Mansions.

In it, Paul plays good Detroit cop Damien Collier who has been supposedly Dark Knight-ing it up around the city for years, fending off escalating crime and tension stemming from the metropolis’ long-forgotten ghetto, which remains at the heart of the city. Filled with what were once beautiful brick buildings, the zone has been completely retaken by criminals, gangsters and other, shall we say, undesirables. . .and while Officer Collier is less of a vigilante than Batman, he finds himself coming face-to-face with some pretty nasty types who wish nothing but for the most harmful. . . .er, harm to befall him.

He does come across the vigilante-esque and mysterious Lino (played by David Belle, the founder of an urban free-running style known as Parkour) who, if anything, would be Robin to Paul Walker’s Batman if we really wanted to continue with this metaphor.

Lino is an ex-con who has recently been released from prison but now finds himself in a scrap with inner-city thugs who have kidnapped his girlfriend (Catalina Denis) — seriously, did Besson just copy-and-paste his old script here? Stopping at nothing to get her back apparently is going to include teaming up with Collier, who is of course initially reluctant to work with a criminal. After all, you know. . .a criminal killed his father. After an awkward stand-off the pair agree to throw themselves into the lion’s den, seeing as they both are pursuing the same man as it turns out. Collier has been tracking down the ringleader Tremaine (RZA) for many years, and Lino only recently has had cause to find him since his girl was taken.

As the presiding ‘evil’ that rules the brick mansion territory, RZA’s Tremaine is actually suitably sinister and perhaps the most intelligently spoken of any character in this film. While his worldview is not particularly original nor even really that compelling it is at the very least believable, unlike anything else the movie has to offer. Collier is a decent man but greatly lacking in personality; Walker tries his best with what he is provided, which is skimpy at best. He’s meant to be following in the shadow of his father who was killed in the line of duty, but that story is so woefully underdeveloped it barely counts as an afterthought.

David Belle is fun to watch, if only for the extensive (bordering on self-indulgent) stunt reel he puts together for the camera. His many escapades actually comprise a good portion of the running time, which truthfully saves the story from being any worse. As a character, though, Lino’s pretty asinine as well, remaining a caricature of a desperate man trying to stay out of trouble.

Brick Mansions makes great use of its grubby and grimy set — for whatever that’s worth. Filmed as though moving throughout levels in a videogame, the camera moves us in and out of intricate spaces filled with bad guys, bullets and babes pistol-whipping one another. The use of CGI is apparent but surprisingly not among the film’s failings. Despite a gritty and somewhat interesting setting, there’s far more wrong with more important components like story and character development. When it comes to actually structuring this foundation, Brick Mansions simply crumbles.

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1-5Recommendation: Admittedly a terrible last outing for Paul, it is nonetheless the last film with Paul in a completed role, and is somewhat worth seeing on that level. Brick Mansions flirts with ideas like the ideological struggle between rich and poor societal classes, something it could have sunk its teeth into more and could possibly have become an intriguing movie as a result. But this is nowhere close to being a movie with ideas, it’s perfectly content with sitting back and being a carbon copy of much better (and still generic) action flicks. Avoid this unless you are in the middle of a mission to see every Paul Walker flick (good for you, I say). Even if that’s the case, this one can probably be placed fairly low on your list.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 90 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Seven Pounds (2008)

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Will Smith is making for a great throwback-themed month, I’ve just realized. He’s a superstar, yes, that’s true. But more than that, he’s more diverse of an actor than I may have previously considered him to be. July has turned out to be a fun examination of a few of his biggest hits, each of them quite different and in each of them Smith is varying levels of his goofy, Fresh Prince-self. However, in some cases, he’s completely straight-edge and serious. Flexing his dramatic muscle last month as Attorney Robert Clayton Dean in Enemy of the State, the actor has impressive versatility that may be overlooked in favor of that goofy side — because, let’s face it, who wants a really grumpy lead role? Well . . . . he’s not exactly firing any noisy crickets here or joking it up alongside Martin Lawrence. Smith in a different role, is interesting. Just as good? I’ll leave that for you to decide. 

Today’s food for thought: Seven Pounds.

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Release: December 19, 2008

[DVD]

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS 

Yeah, so if you’re looking for the movie where Will Smith says a lot of nice things to people, this is not the one to pick up. “Ben” Thomas is haunted by a secret from his past, wherein a car accident, involving seven people including his wife, killed six. Plagued with guilt “Ben” is constantly on edge, and something of an antisocial stubborn man. As an IRS tax collector, he’s not exactly ecstatic about his contributions to society in general. But he is looking for ways to help people out, a kind of compulsive desire to make up for the grief he caused others, as well as clearly himself.

Smith’s character here is really quite rough. Interactions with a few of the main players in Seven Pounds — Woody Harrelson’s Ezra Turner as well as Rosario Dawson’s Emily Posa — make for some tough scenes to watch, quite honestly, and getting used to him in this role may take some time. For others, maybe it won’t happen at all. This movie is the recipient of a pretty cruddy RT score (27%) and while the story here is a lot less pretty than some of Big Willie’s others, it’s no rotten tomato damn it. However, it probably shouldn’t be understated that your fandom might be tested with the lead character.

“Ben” is donating parts of his body to those who he’s deemed are deserving of his help. He’s given up bone marrow, lung tissue (to his brother), part of his liver and a kidney. After said donations, “Ben”‘s still searching for more ways to help. A blind meat salesman, Ezra, receives a call from “Ben” one evening, and the purpose of this call (apparently) was to test this person’s temper. After insulting and downright bullying the man on the other end of the line — he makes fun of the guy not being able to see — “Ben” finds that this Ezra guy is not quick to anger, thus he is a candidate for a donation.

A second candidate, Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carrillo), a woman who lives with an abusive husband, is brought to “Ben”‘s attention. One night after being beaten she calls the number on the business card “Ben” had left her in a previous visit, and she, along with her kids, are immediately out of harm’s way. I won’t say exactly what happens here, since it’s one of the big moments in the movie but suffice it to say I feel as though these moments, scarce as they are in the relatively bleak Gabriele Muccino-directed drama, are overlooked by a lot of detractors of the film. It’s summary is described as “grim and morose, undone by an illogical plot.” I maybe could agree to the second part of that, but to just write the whole thing of as being grim and morose is only telling of part of the film’s arc. It may never be a particularly happy film, but there is a remarkable transformation in Smith’s character (more spoilers on that in a second) that drives the second half of it that redeems all of the, quite frankly, shitty mood of the first.

A third candidate whom “Ben”‘s been informed of is a woman who has heart problems, Emily Posa (Dawson) and who also has a rare type of blood. In order for “Ben”‘s “seven pounds” to be fulfilled successfully, this would mean him donating his heart to Emily, whom he has grown close to over the coming days. (Yes, of course there would be a complication here — a device that I could totally see the argument for it being a little manipulative and hokey, but I go along with it anyway because I just think Will Smith is damn amazing in this film.) When Emily takes a turn for the worse one day, “Ben” knows what he has to and is going to do next.

While I can sort of get behind some viewpoints that claim the ending is completely dumb and makes little sense, I think it’s the only logical way for the film to finish. Despite me still thinking it’s not the best conclusion — nor the happiest — the jarring drama had led us to believe was coming, it’s an interesting perspective on how the impacts of one person’s actions ripple across a community. When a gathering is held at the end of the film where all the recipients of Mr. Thomas’ donations meet one another, Ezra and Emily come across each other. He has “Ben”‘s eyes, and Emily is alive because of the — well, you know — the heart thing. That seems a little cheesy, I know, but in execution, the movie pulls it off to great effect.

The film may not be Will Smith’s most iconic, but it is one of his most unique. He completely steps aside from his typical and charming appeal to take on this pseudo-anti hero in “Ben” Thomas. So those quotation marks around his name are probably driving you nuts by now, huh? Well this is spoiler territory, so I’m going to strike out the spoiler but if you’ve seen it/don’t mind ruining the film for yourself, by all means read on.

Ben’s true identity becomes revealed earlier in the film, as Smith’s character, who’s actually named Tim, stole his brother’s identification to keep his own a secret in fulfilling his donations. His brother confronted Tim about the situation and was concerned about Tim’s well-being. At the end of the film, Emily and Ezra find out who their mutual donor is, and we all skip happily ever after down the road. No, not quite. But you get the idea. 

Will Smith stars in Columbia Pictures' drama SEVEN POUNDS.

3-5

Recommendation: An effective blend of drama and a romantic spark between Dawson and Smith pushes Seven Pounds into the more ‘acquired taste’ portion of the Fresh Prince’s career, but still it’s a thoughtful examination of the sacrifice people are willing to make for others. For a more well-rounded perspective of Smith’s repertoire, it’s a good idea to give this a try.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 123 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com