Speed RacerRelease Date: Dec. 19Director: Gabriele MuccinoWriter: Grant NieporteCinematographer: Philippe Le
SourdStarring: Will Smith, Rosario
Dawson, Woody HarrelsonStudio Information: Columbia
Pictures, 78 mins.
I could tell you what happens at the
end of Seven Pounds, tell you what Will Smith's character is
up to, and tell you what all the coy narrative suppression is
covering up, but you'd never believe me. "A jellyfish?"
you'd ask, screwing up your face in that way that you do.Speed RacerA jellyfish, indeed. The filmmakers
seem to think he's only a little odd, but actually Ben Thomas (Smith)
has gone around the bend. He wears a nice suit, carries a briefcase,
and stalks people all day and night, especially Emily the heart
patient (Rosario Dawson). He opens up a big smile and flashes his IRS
credentials whenever he hits a roadblock, as if that should grant him
carte blanche to stand mysteriously in people's hospital rooms, stare
at them across crowded spaces, or weed their gardens. Since he's
played by Will Smith, we know he'll turn out to be good—probably
even selfless—once we understand his motives, but the film spends
an hour or two digging him into a deep ditch of oddity that I'm not
sure any explanation could really justify.
For instance, he keeps a jellyfish in
an impressive 40-gallon cylindrical tank that he hauls around to
whatever crummy motel room he may occupy. The guy is clearly on some
kind of stalking-based mercy mission, some kind of jellyfish-centered
financial assignment, some kind of guilt assuagement arrangement. But
the film just won't tell us what it is until the last minutes of the
movie. By then, will we care?
Some of my favorite films reveal their
secrets gradually, and I love them for it. The Son by the
Dardennes and this year's Ballast by Lance Hammer drop the
viewer into worlds where history hangs like a shadow over the
present, but that history isn’t spelled out right away. These films
harness the viewers' natural curiosity and let us glean the events of
the past through casual observation, just as we might if we saw these
characters on the bus or overheard their phone call.
Seven Pounds, by contrast,
actively withholds information artificially, with flashbacks that end
too soon, with bread crumbs tossed out to string us along. As a
result, the film builds up an unstable dependence on the moment of
revelation, when we're supposed to be blown away, crushed,
devastated, when we're supposed to reevaluate everything that came
before, like The Sixth Sense. But instead we discover that the
concept is so loony it almost seems to have been chopped up and
stylized solely to hide its stupidity.
I'm not sure what personal reservoirs
Smith and Dawson drew from to create a couple of marvelous, earnest
performances, in spite of Emily's failing heart, in spite of the
stingin' fishes, in spite of Woody Harrelson's disturbing eyes and
gaping mouth. I can't imagine the inspiration came from this script.
I only wish director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte
had come up with another reason entirely to put these two likable
actors together. They don't need the games or the invented pity.
Seven Pounds is among the
dumbest prestige films to vie for an award in this season of
half-baked Oscar contenders. It's a waste of talent, a waste of time,
and a waste of 40 good gallons of water.