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What to See – Seven Pounds

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Seven Pounds, the new movie that reunites Will Smith with The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabrielle Muccino, has already had its plot spoiled by Lou Lumenick of The New York Post. But, let’s be honest; you don’t discover the secret of Seven Pounds in the first act — you know it in the first scene, if you’re watching closely enough. Within a few days, everyone will have divulged the plot of Seven Pounds, which makes my coyness almost irrelevant, but, I don’t want to be that guy. Still, there’s more to Seven Pounds than that plot, and judging the movie by the “success” or failure of the secrets in the plot is too simplistic.

The first thing worth noting about Seven Pounds is that, while it’s being sold as a feel-good heart-warmer, it’s actually much tougher — even crueler — than the trailers suggests. The Pursuit of Happyness gave us a story about how anything in life can be overcome with commitment and struggle; Seven Pounds is a story about how many things in life there are to struggle against and overcome. Very few movies try — or dare — to show us just how much pain there is in the world. Seven Pounds looks at that fact, head-on, and accepts it in a way most movies don’t.

The other thing worth noting about Seven Pounds is Smith. Like Brad Pitt, Smith is a real actor trapped in the life of a movie star. Yes, Smith is charming and likable and does not, as Eminem noted, need to swear to sell records. But if Hancock gave us the chance to see Smith turn his public persona on its ear, Seven Pounds gives us the chance to see Smith wear his public persona as a mask. Playing IRS agent Ben Thomas, Smith smiles and charms his way into people’s lives, looking to help them. And as the movie goes on, we get to see what’s behind all of that — how Smith is playing a man playing a part. We learn that all of Smith’s charm and affability is actually camouflaging something sharp and broken in Ben, like a velvet cloth draped over jagged wreckage. Seven Pounds isn’t just about its secret, and it’s not the perfect drama, but it has a sharp-toothed honesty to it that a lot of movies would do well to learn from.

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The Wrestler, opening in limited release this week, isn’t for the squeamish or the weak of heart. It’s also much, much more than a one-man show revolving around Mickey Rourke. Sensitive and good-hearted but blunt and grim, The Wrestler is a new high for Darren Aronofsky, and a perfectly-shaped story of loss and glory.

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