Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Cast: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper, Michael Ealy
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Runtime: 118 min.
Rating: *
Genre: Drama

        Below are some facts about Will Smith I have learned lately, facts that only apply to him and the other blessing the almighty has bestowed upon us.
Fact 1: Will Smith is so great he can calculate your guilt just by looking at the numbers in your checkbook.
Fact 2: Will Smith is so good a microphone into which he has spoken, heals asbestos-related disorders and colorectal cancer by direct application.
Fact 3: Everything Will Smith touches heals, and never feels pain ever again.
Fact 4: If you wish for true love, learn to love Will Smith.
Fact 6: Will Smith is so noble that God plans to use his sweat to bring peace and prosperity throughout the world. God himself wasn’t aware of its myriad powers, but learnt of it when a drop fell to the ground and the Garden of Eden sprang into existence.
Fact 5: The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that Will Smith is not an illusion.
        Now, you might wonder, when will the one blessing play the other? As in, when will Will Smith play Barack Obama, because, Fact 6: deep down everyone is a Will Smith or a Barack Obama.
The source for the information above is All I did was to extend the properties of one superhero to the other, and add a couple of my own.
Now, if you still want to latch on to your cynicism, and not believe the insights I am sharing, you ought to look no further than Seven Pounds. We mortals might have not thought about it, but Will Smith upstages Jesus right on the stroke of Christmas. Mark my words, there will one day be the greatest award in his name – The Will Smith Sacrifice Award for Services to Mankind. And a whole different international holiday – Smithmas. You wouldn’t believe how Smith singularly serves so many people and brings tears of gratitude to so many eyes. No wonder he is God’s blessing.
        And if in return he asks of you to sacrifice your valuable time and valuable money for the cause of one of the worst films in recent memory, I believe that is the least we can do. A creepy, and essentially sick film that is masquerading as feel-good cinema, as something that ought to inspire and catalyze soul searching. Probably the most disgusting example of manipulative cinema since Patch Adams and The Life of David Gale. Trust me when I claim that I was less appalled at the end of Dead Poets’ Society than I’m here. I don’t know, but isn’t stalking people intrinsically perverse, as opposed to being good natured? An act that betrays a certain sense of, you know, disturbingly psychopathic and socially inept behavior. But that is not enough, for Will Smith can always do that much more than the regular John Doe. Here, playing an IRS agent Ben Thomas, he outdoes even himself, even from I am Legend and actually gets down to selecting and evaluating folks to stalk, and then judges for himself if they are good and kind and worthy and deserving of his gifts, the ones he has been planning to distribute to these folks. What those gifts are, I won’t tell you, but you’ll surely learn once you watch the film, and once that happens, you would want to throw something at the screen. I wish I could tell you though, spoil every possible moment of this film, but I fear you might throw something on your computer screen instead, and I believe the success rate in the latter as opposed to the former is rather very high due to the proximity involved.
        Why those gifts, I’ll tell you. While I’m at it, I’ll tell you about some of these lucky deserving folks too. Ben Thomas has left his home, and is living in a motel room for the past few weeks. We learn he has a wife, and we learn he was one of those “smart” people jobs down at some rocket company via a scene where he talks and people listen. This is second time in two weeks I say that there needs to be a repository maintained of these stock sequences, now that CGI has come about and that it is spectacularly easy to replace one face with the other.
        So, he has apparently left his “genius” job and is out there now collecting taxes moving around in the same suit. Why I don’t know, I mean why the same suit, but I would take immense pleasure in reminding that the actor-director’s previous venture The Pursuit of Happyness also had him wearing a same suit throughout a film. Why pleasure, because I claimed in my review of that film that it was in a way shamelessly manipulative, and I seem to find some sort of sick satisfaction that this film here is bad in the way it is. How bad? So bad you will make return from the night screening and decide to stalk the one who recommended this film, for the rest of your living life. You’ll make calls to everybody you know just to share how horrible this film is, not because it is bad, but because it assumes such a noble face and tries to cloak the innate twisted sickness of its premise. Not that the premise itself is sick, but the ennobling and dare I say godly status thrust upon its protagonist is repulsive, and dare I say demented. It is a sick fascination of many a kid, especially the lonely one, who dreams how every one of his relatives and known ones down at school (including the best looking girl) will react once he suddenly disappears from their lives. There’s a rather brilliant scene at the end of the theatrical cut of Donnie Darko, where that beautiful song from the British band Tears for Fears captures, rather reveals what Richard Kelly and his film seem to be hiding the whole time. Not here, because this film and its script has been manipulated to such an extent that they seem to have grossly misunderstood and maybe overlooked the many themes of their premise, and instead focusing on shallow exercises in drama and overblown melodrama. Tears, tears and more tears. This film starts on a sad note and ends with the depressing.
        But overblown drama, I can endure. What I cannot is trying to make a thriller-of-sorts out of the material, winking at the audience, and supplying them installments of information just so that they could be shattered when it is all revealed. Two things here, one the film is utterly predictable right down to its final frame, and two the film doesn’t know that and assumes it is smart. Yes, the logical thing to say is the blame rests with the screenwriter Grant Nieporte, but the director Gabriele Muccino isn’t doing us, or for that matter his film any great favors either. I have seen two of his films now, and one of his primary tricks is to have a hand held camera shake a little and provide close-ups to the characters as they converse, just to make it seem all the more real, as opposed to say fictional, and maybe even fantastical. Make no mistake, Muccino is a very adept filmmaker, a filmmaker who is given to grace, and it could be discovered in the way he chooses to have long scenes, thus involving us more. The script is terrible I assure you, so much so that having informatory dialog is like the least of its offences. Ben’s brother calls up, and says – Hey, it’s me, your brother. Or the doctor informs us by saying “No anesthetic, very brave” just so that we would know Ben’s doing a great courageous act. There’re lots more of those, but the problem is the film is good enough not to deserve itself.
        As an audience, we’re torn apart, between its inept storytelling and its other more touching scenes. The performances are so good you feel pained. There’s Rosario Dawson suffering from a coronary disorder, and there’s such truth in her acting. There’s Woody Harrelson as a blind man, and he delivers the strongest most touching performance of the film, although he is there for only three scenes. There’s Will Smith too, and what pains me is the fact that his services are sought for such a film. You cannot hate Smith, for there’s a great honesty to his acting. But here you feel as if that honesty is being used to serve an inherently dishonest motive, one where that benevolent charm is used as a trick. The film doesn’t deserve these performances. The film doesn’t deserve its direction. Most of all it doesn’t deserve the jellyfish.
        And the film doesn’t deserve us either, doesn’t deserve a thoughtful and self-respecting human being, except for to throw things at it and laugh at it. Its shameless and cruel core is revealed during the final moments when the film chooses to show what Ben Thomas has chosen to do, rather than just skipping it altogether and moving to the aftermath. No, the film intends to suck tears out of our eyes, if possible by means of a plunger, and panders its final act, and then move to the relief part. You would wonder the reasons behind why he chooses his act, and what the film throws at you is one of the worst possible reasonings of all time. It is unpleasant and it is insulting. So is the film. So much that even Will Smith’s noble healing touch cannot save it.

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