Tuesday, February 28, 2017
(December 2008, U.S.)
This may sound harsh and a bit heartless, but in my humble opinion, SEVEN POUNDS may best be described as practically (and perhaps literally) a step-by-step process on how to plan-down-to-the-last-detail and execute your own suicide. Whatever personal feelings and convictions you may have on such a serious subject, whether religious or moral, is completely up to you, as the film makes no attempt to stress whether or not a broken man planning his own suicide and the generous acts of goodness and atonement he performs prior to such an act is right, wrong, indecent, righteous or even beautiful.
When we first meet Will Smith's character of Tim Thomas, we can easily see he's at the end of his rope, as he calls in a suicide to 911; his own. We can also surmise that he's lost everything that was important to him in a horrible car accident, which also claimed the lives of seven others. In his own personal bid for atonement before he departs from this world, Tim seeks to improve the lives of seven random individuals who will benefit from his own vital body organs after he's gone, including his lung, his liver, his heart, his corneas and bone marrow (he will also donate his California beach house to a desperate family in need). Such individuals, however, must be screened and tested to be sure if they are worthy candidates, even if it means phony acts of cruelty over the phone toward a sensitive blind man (played by Woody Harrelson) to see if he will easily succumb to anger and retaliation. To easily approach people, Time assumes the false identity of Ben Thomas (his brother), an IRS auditor. A genius move, really, because no one is likely to take the chance of brushing off (or pissing off!) a tax auditor. We even take a degree of pleasure in watching Ben "reject" a hospice director when he discovers his acts of cruelty toward an elderly patient. We know that Ben is not a tax auditor, but it's fun to watch the little hospice prick squirm when he thinks that he's pissed off a man from the IRS and they're now going to be coming after him.
Ben is highly determined to carry through with his plan of ending his life. The only other person in on it is his long time childhood friend Dan (played by Barry Pepper) who has vowed a sacred promise to execute Ben's living will to ensure that his organs are properly donated to the right people (I'll get back to Dan in a little while). This determination is apparently not even deterred when Ben finds himself falling in love with Emily Posa (played by Rosario Dawson), the woman he's chosen to receive his heart after he's gone. There is a moment, though, when Ben appears to want to find even the slightest reason to go on living and be with Emily and inquires from her doctor if she would have any chance of living were she not to get a new heart. Realizing that she will likely die, he makes the fateful (no pun intended) decision to finally end his life once and for all so he may not only give to those who need, but to end his pain, as well. Despite Ben's narration of how he was fascinated by box jellyfish as a kid, I still cannot fully account for the significance of Ben choosing to die by jellyfish stings in a bathtub of freezing water. I can only presume that the ice and the stings were a method of preserving his organs so they would not stop or be damaged. The excruciatingly painful death that Ben chooses is very likely part of his own personal atonement for the lives he was responsible for in that deadly car accident, including his fiancée (don't text and drive, people!!!).
So back to Dan for a moment. His role, believe it or not, I find just as intriguing as Ben's. As we learn of the man's pain for what has happened to him and others, as well as his genuine goodness towards others as his last effort on Earth, we can almost come to understand his purpose and intentions in ending his life (whether we agree with it or not). What I find harder to comprehend is the best friend who would agree to support such an act. Loyalty surely comes in many shapes and forms and to honor your best friend's final wish is surely a fine example of that honor. But is it not too unlike agreeing to the act of a crime simply because he's your best friend? Does the true friend express his loyalty by honoring a man's act of suicide or does he do better by being there to help the man heal and forgive himself instead? Perhaps this is where suspension of disbelief comes into play while you're sitting there watching Barry Pepper in the film and asking yourself, "You're going to let him do it??"
SEVEN POUNDS, for all of its bittersweet drama and tender moments of love, is surely also a heartbreaking and emotionally devastating experience. Tim/Ben Thomas is a man you can care about, for reasons of both his horrible personal pain and the final acts of goodness he wishes to deliver to those who truly deserve it. It helps you to recognize the good in other people (even if it's just a movie) when you don't necessarily feel like such a good person yourself all the time (just sayin').
Favorite line or dialogue:
Emily Posa: "Do you wanna play a game?"
Ben Thomas: "What game?"
Emil: "The "what if" game."
Ben: "The "what if" game."
Emily: "What if...my pager goes off...and it's a heart...and...it works? And my body doesn't reject it? And...what if i have time?"
Ben Thomas: "What if? What if we have children? What if we got married?"