Saturday, January 24, 2009

spoiler alert

today is turning into a day of reposts (i am working on something of my own which will find its way on here soon)... here is a blog from a staff member at my church about the movie 7 pounds:

Saintly Suicide?: Film Seven Pounds’ Christ-figure is light on grace

**SPOILER ALERT** It’s difficult to discuss Will Smith’s new flick without giving away too much. The suspenseful drama reveals new information at every turn after opening with Ben Thomas (Will Smith), a melancholy IRS agent, making a call to 911. He reports a suicide, and after the lady on the other end asks, “Who’s?” He replies, “Mine.” Then the back story begins. As the viewer pieces together flashbacks and random regretful statements (Smith’s character admits, “I haven’t treated myself very well.”), it becomes clear that Thomas’ past includes a tragic error resulting in the death of seven individuals including his fiancĂ©e. He commits to make penance by dolling out his organs to needy donor recipients one by one, ending with his heart and his eyes—“seven pounds of flesh.”

This Christ-figure who gives of himself to save lives has a rather un-Christ-like screening process. Thomas uses his IRS credentials to interview his candidates to determine if they are worthy. He explains to another character, “It is within my power to drastically change his circumstances, but I don’t want to give that man a gift he doesn’t deserve.” Of course, only the “good people” are deserving. An abusive elderly care director gets disqualified while a youth hockey coach receives valuable bone marrow. Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson, looking way too much like Roy Munson, his character from Kingpin), a blind telemarketer, gets berated to see if he’ll respond in anger, while Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) gets a free pass apparently based solely on his attraction to her.

This is quite different from the incomprehensible free grace of God, where “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But then again Christ’s cross is universally offensive. Hollywood couldn’t afford to disappoint ticket-buyers’ expectations and let the protagonist sacrifice himself for the liar, the murderer, the adulterer. Unfortunately Seven Pounds loses some of its force because of it. And there’s really nothing novel about the theme of debilitating guilt and shame. Of course, Thomas’ plan doesn’t allow him to stick around long enough for the viewer to see if he was vindicated. The audience is expected to hail the sacrifice as heroic, but the believer knows that while it is rare to die for a righteous man, it is rarer still to die for you and me.

Seven Pounds’ premise had potential to go to the dark side (my preference) but instead bordered on cheesy—death by texting and driving, death by jellyfish, loving gazes into the eyes on the new eye donor recipient. Director Gabriele Muccino (who also directed Pursuit of Happyness) was clearly trying to lighten the mood, reminiscent of how 1993’s Untamed Heart handled the gloomy topic with Christian Slater’s overly-gelled hair and baboon heart.

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