Quotes of the Week — ‘Seven Pounds’

Posted on December 21, 2008 at 11:16 am

Will Smith’s latest got only a few positive reviews, 29% according to Rotten Tomatoes. One was from USA Today, where Claudia Puig said, “Concerned with how people overcome trauma and tragedy, the film focuses on universal themes of loss, forgiveness and redemption. While it doesn’t break any new ground or provide any revelations, Seven Pounds is unabashedly emotional and cautiously hopeful. It’s the feel-good movie for these feel-bad times.”
But it most critics placed it somewhere between “feel bad” and “feel furious” and the frustration of writing about what they did not like without giving away the ending had some of them just about foaming at the mouth. SPOILER ALERT — DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING It is clear from the very beginning of the film that Smith’s character will at least attempt to commit suicide and that he is preparing to make a great sacrifice to benefit seven people he considers deserving, including a character with a congenital heart defect played by Rosario Dawson. It turns out that he carelessly caused a traffic accident (don’t text and drive, my friends) that killed seven people, including his wife. At the end of the film, after giving up a lung, a part of his liver, his bone marrow (with no anesthetic), and his beach house, Smith’s character kills himself so that he can give up his heart and corneas. This is Puig’s idea of a feel-good movie?
I would not go as far as the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, who called it “among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made.” But I see his point. Scott Foundas of The Village Voice called it “a morbid morality play that rivals The Reader for the bottom spot in this season’s celluloid martyrdom derby” and “dispiritingly obvious and phony from top to bottom.” It is not the obviousness and phoniness and manipulation that bothers me as much as the clueless and even condescending immorality of it. No one thinks that suicide, even to benefit others, is a legitimately redemptive act and it is contemptible and irresponsible of the movie to suggest otherwise.

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30 Replies to “Quotes of the Week — ‘Seven Pounds’”

  1. I just wanted to add to this article seeing as I just finished watching the movie. In my opinion this movie shows the dynamics of being human. First carelessness, then tragedy, guilt, followed by understanding, and finished with closure. The storyline may not agree with your morals on how a movie should play out — but in these times I think it’s what people need to see. How even though you might mistakenly do one wrong thing, it can be fixed even with small acts. I don’t recommend taking it to the extent as Ben the main character did, but again, this is a movie that is trying to sell itself. May I say, it did a very fine job at that! I recommend bringing along some tissues if you plan to see the film.

  2. I very much appreciate this thoughtful comment, and I agree with you that its message of the possibility of redemption is an important one, even though, as we agree, we do not support his final choice. Thanks so much for writing.

  3. will smiths actions were heroic. If you killed one person in something you didn’t mean to do I don’t know how you could live with yourself. I know that in Ohio there is a 5 year penalty for every count of vehicular manslaughter. Smith killed his wife who he loved. Should someone by punished for that? Lickily will wasn’t. I don’t know how you can say that killing himself at the end makes it a bad movie. I personally could not live with myself after killing 6 strangers and the person I love the most. This movie inspired me to be a better person before it is too late I to anything about it because it shouldn’t take murder to do good things.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Andymac, and as I said in the first line of my review your reaction to the movie will depend on how you feel about his decision. I do not believe that suicide is ever an heroic or morally valid decision. Almost all of the world’s religions would tell him that he can only expiate his sin by remorse and good works, not by killing himself, no matter how much good it did for others. You mention the penalty for manslaughter — it is not the death penalty. Even our legal system finds that what he did is not grounds for killing him.
    I am pleased that the movie has inspired you to do good things. But keep in mind that suicide to atone for sins cannot be one of them, no matter what anyone has done.

  5. I thought the movie was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I love the comments on here because they are so right. this movie is all about the dynamics of being human. suicide is a little far, but people deal with things differently and you could see that he was suffering a great deal. Just because he ends up killing himself in the end, people are condemning this movie? thats ridiculous. The movie was great, it made the audience feel what was going on rather then sit back as the spectator and its easy for the audience to relate because honestly, who hasnt gone through moments of grief, guilt, tragedy, or understanding. I loved this movie. Its one of my top favorites. That someone would say, “among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made.” is soo wrong. So opposite. This movie is inspiring for americans to get off their lazy ass’s and go make a difference. Its life changing. Its a movie that people can call their friend ranting in the middle of the night just to go over it one more time amazing story line. Simply I loved it.

  6. Hi, I’m just a 16 years old and I see this movie with my 16 years old eyes not really full of life experiences, but I can tell that after that I’ve seen this movie, I felt happy for him, I seriously felt happy for him, because he killed those people even if he didn’t want to, but he killed them anyway, and he lived with this for a long time, and he decided to help people, and he helped who seriously needed it and at the end after he killed his wife, he killed himself to give his hearth to the girl he loved, and I can’t understand why you are saying that that’s wrong because is the most difficult and heroic decision that anybody can do. And I have a question about what Nell wrote:
    “I do not believe that suicide is ever an heroic or morally valid decision. Almost all of the world’s religions would tell him that he can only expiate his sin by remorse and good works, not by killing himself, no matter how much good it did for others.”
    I want just to ask you what would you do for the person that you love the most, and I’m a catholic and I know that our religion is based on a man who sacrificed himself to help the others, and in this case I think that even if Will didn’t have to die he did a noble choice, to give that people the opportunity to live.
    Because with hard work and good action, that girl was going to die and that man was not going to see.

  7. Grazie, Enrico, for your very thoughtful comments, which are very touching. If you speak with a priest about this issue, he may suggest you look at the catechism:
    Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.”
    “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”
    “If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal.”
    The priest will also tell you that Jesus was more than a man and he did not commit suicide. I continue to believe that suicide is never an heroic or moral act. The movie’s most significant contribution is in prompting exactly these discussions and self-examinations and if it inspires us to be more considerate and generous, that is a good thing.
    Thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts and I hope you will return and comment often.

  8. I am 60 and I took my 84 year old Mom to see this great film. I don’t care what the critics said about it. It profoundly touched both of us and we have been talking about it for days. I happen to know someone who accidently killed someone and I have seen the way it has torn my friend apart mentally and emotionally. After seeing this movie, I now understand more how my friend is feeling…Suicide is NEVER the answer but folks, this was a movie to maybe show the rest of us how “the other persons in real life are living with the guilt”…..maybe this film was made to “open OUR eyes” to help us “help” our friends who may happen to be in the situation that Will Smith was in…in the movie…think about it… anyway, I learned alot from the movie and I think it has a message for all of us….except for the suicide….

  9. this movie was great! so touching, so clinching, so sad but so well done!
    SHUT UP NEW YORK TIMES. we loved it!

  10. i have been moved strongly by this movie and i think it is a gate which opens to the world the human soul and how many sacrifices it can make…will smith is a great actor and his personality is perfect in converting with the personage.. i mean he suits every kind of role, especially those referred to life. trust me, i watch very many movies, at least 1 /day, sometimes i like to watch all the day long, and i haven’t seen something like that before. and i have some movies aboard…………

  11. I take offense to the line where you say that no one thinks that suicide for the benefit of others is not an idea anyone would even consider. Being in the military, I have seen many people give their lives for just that. That selfless act allows others to go on living, so what would you call it?

  12. Eric, first, my deepest respect and appreciation for all that you and all those who serve in the military do to protect our freedoms. Many people risk their lives every day to protect others — police, fire fighters, in addition to soldiers, sailors, and marines. But the suicide in this movie is in an entirely different category morally and I object to the film’s attempt to characterize it as heroic, fitting, and appropriate as atonement.
    I very much appreciate your thoughtful comment, and I think we agree more than we disagree. I am grateful for a meaningful contribution to this discussion.

  13. I personally thought this movie was absolutely stunning. Smith played his character perfectly, and I would have never pictured anyone better for the role. I’m blown away that it didn’t get overly good reviews, because I think the movie definitely deserved it. But, I get that’s my personal thought.

  14. I believe the point of this movie was to prove the point of selflessness, something that the world has seem to forgotten. This was a fantastic movie in my eyes because it brought the point up of what man’s(women) real worth is. I think Will Smith portrayed this part beautifully and masterfully, as he captured the essence of fear. Though he was willing to give of himself, he still feared his actions and what he was about to do. I’m not a heavily religious person, but isn’t that what Jesus did? Gave of himself to save the world. The character in the story did just that, giving of himself, to save others, and in turn, maybe causing a ripple effect. This was a great movie regardless of what the critics said.

  15. I don’t understand why you have to critic every aspect of the movie. The point of film is to move the beholder. If you can’t get lost in the film or feel like you’re a part of the movie, you know it’s a bit superficial and fake. But real films take the story and create a new vibe or feeling with it to give off to the audience. Just because this vibe may not have been the happiest, at least it puts you in a position of thought. And if our society doesn’t enjoy thinking anymore, can a good film ever be labeled a good film? Or are the unrealistic fantasies what we have resorted to? Life is real. And Seven Pounds is an excellent example of a story that portrays something real. It’s deep. The emotions and motivations behind the character are complex. But we’ve all experienced complicated relations. Everyone can understand. And that’s what makes a true film. The raw connection of the story to the audience, and of course, how it affects them afterwards. Sure, it may not break through any major revelations, but it does expose us to the reality of selflessness, and how to give – maybe not as dramatically – so that the world is a better place.

  16. Thanks, Emily. I am glad that the movie touched you and I agree entirely that its greatest contribution is in provoking thinking and debate. But my concern about the movie did not relate to some inconsequential or tangential detail. It went to what was literally the heart of the movie. As I said in my review, your feeling about the movie will depend on how you feel about the character’s final choice. I applaud the movie’s willingness to take on some tough issues, including redemption and expiation, but can never endorse its glorification of suicide, even as a metaphor.

  17. The movie was powerful and frightening.Will Smith has truly learned his craft.
    There are people who have conceived a life in order to benefit another, so why is it so hard to believe that someone could be so racked with remorse that they take their life. It has happened I agree that most do not have the wherewithal or ability to track and decide who will receive benefit of their death.
    The movie is not about a universal decision or acceptance of suicide but an exploration of one mans decision to pay his “pound of flesh” for what he felt responsible for.
    The movie did take on a tough issue suicide is a hot button subject many people find it selfish and contemptible but it can also be the means to dying with dignity that many would seek if they had an illness that they would not recover from or would be in a vegetative state.
    The movie leads to discussion and self exploration as I said powerful performance.

  18. Thank you as well…I can agree with the remorse and regret, let alone the responsibility of a complete stranger[S] death. I totally agree the suicide was extreme and, but whos to say thats the right or wrong way to give back?? Society?? Really?? Umm society is REALITY, and this movie is REALITY…I don’t know what you hear alot of on your “local” news, but I can’t tell you how times I have heard that teenager, after teenager is killed or HAS killed others, while TEXTING….WHILE driving?? Thats what our society has become….your actions while doing so, could shatter another’s dream for the rest of their lives, if not kill…..tell me, you have a conscious?? tell me you would never feel guilt…..if you had to do with the death of someone’s daughter, or someone’s dad…..sorry I may alittle extreme too, but I really got into it…and Will Smith’s character….sometimes, I think we need more people like that in this world….Set aside the extreme suicide….look at your license…organ donor? We all give back someway unconsciencally.

  19. Just becuase every religion says something doesnt mean we have to follow suit like mindless zombies; if anything its truly ours is our life, to make with it (as long we dont hurt anybody) as we see fit. The movie was pretty good, the drama is pretty well maneged and even is has an hint that i might had another option for Smith´s character,with the girl with heart condition, but that would mean the dead of the her, so Smith´s char make the decision to make the ultimate sacrifice and donate a heart. The movie nor dramatically or locally could´ve ended other way that wasnt sucide it would ruin the mood of the emovie, and he simple could not live without a lung.

    I recomend set your ethics in what its best for you (completely not only material needs) and deep reflexion not in superstitions and dogmas.

    Religion is the masses opium

    1. You’re setting up a straw man by arguing against a position no one is taking. Who is recommending mindless zombie-ism or superstition? That parenthetical “as long as we don’t hurt anybody” is the tricky part, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that ruining the mood of a movie is a basis for making a moral decision. There are certainly some circumstances where sacrificing oneself to save another’s live is the right thing to do. Our military and police and fire fighters take that risk every day. But I did not think this movie’s glorification of the character’s suicide was dramatically or morally valid.

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