Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

In 2008, Will Smith was already a megastar: Bad Boys. Independence Day. Men in Black. Wild Wild West. Ali. I, Robot.

Wow. Larger than larger-than-life. Probably only Jeff Goldblum had a better box-office run.

Then in 2005, with Hitch, Smith started using his industry clout to turn in a series of noticeably serious and “human” roles. The Pursuit of Happyness. Hancock.

In my opinion, Smith’s career came to complete fruition in this period with his absolutely searing performance in Seven Pounds, the story of a man’s inability to come to grips with his past.

The movie starts where it ends, so when we meet Ben, we know right off that he’s not a particularly happy man. Not to give everything away right out of the gate (because there’s an awful lot to actually give away), as we go back to the middle of his story we see him verbally abuse disabled customer service reps over the phone and, presenting IRS agent credentials, pry obtrusively into the details of people’s lives.

What the hell is he up to?

As he gets closer and closer to Emily, one of the people he’s investigating, we start to get the sense that there’s a truly human side to Ben, even if we aren’t sure exactly how to read that human empathy, or its purpose. Which side of Ben is for real? Smith’s experience playing the con man central to Six Degrees of Separation looms large in this role, calling everything we see into question.

And it all heads to an emotionally devastating climax. Fair warning. This is not light entertainment, and you will not follow it all if you are distracted with kids, housework, or Social Media alerts. It demands serious attention.

The film was not particularly well received on its release. Critics said that was because the film is too sentimental, too puzzling, too manipulative. I’d say it’s because the film industry has taught us to expect too little of our art and entertainment. Seven Pounds is a truly challenging film, on just about every level.

For my money, this is what bold commercial filmmaking looks like. But critics should have been courageous enough to simply say, “I don’t like it.” It’s perfectly okay not to like excellent art; but one’s dislike does not diminish the art itself.

If you’re willing to take a risk on flick that you might end up hating, try Seven Pounds. The risk is worth it. This is a well-made film that could very easily change your life, if it happens to resonate. There are not many films about which that could be said.

Seven Pounds is now included with Netflix. You can also stream at YouTube or Amazon for a small fee.

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