movie reviews

Seven Pounds (2008)

7pounds

Seven Pounds is an intense, heavy, human drama. Ben (Will Smith), a IRS agent, is a man on a mission who harbors a dark secret. He goes around investigating a list of people. We soon learn that these people have something in common, they all need help. There is a blind vegan meat salesman, a battered woman trying to get away from her abusive ex, a frail old woman and several other people in difficult circumstances. When Ben investigates Emily (Rosario Dawson), a sweet, charming woman with a heart condition, he finds himself being drawn to her. When they fall in love it is a big stick getting stuck in the spokes of the wheels of his plan. His feelings for Emily and the happiness he had been experiencing and throws him into doubt. For the longest time he had been racked with guilt, neglecting himself, focused only on his plan, believing that he could not have anything for himself. Ben is not entirely who he seems to be and it soon be comes clear what he is planning and why.

This movie is in a word brilliant. The title, “Seven Pounds”, refers to the expression “seven pounds of flesh”, which in the case of this film is both metaphorical and refers to something slightly more literal. It is a story of love, guilt, kindness, contrition and redemption. The story line is slightly non-linear. Action starts with a flash forward f and then jumps back in time to where Ben is busy investigating the people on his list. The editing between flash the investigation, the execution of the plan, Ben’s dark secret and the aftermath of his plan.

Seven Pounds is extremely intriguing and incredibly well written. The story gut-wrenching especially upon subsequent viewings, when you already know what Ben is up to. The score underline the emotion of the film. Is it melodramatic? It could potentially be given the story and the messages it contains, but I think it was executed in very well.

The director, Gabriele Muccino, did a wonderful job with orchestrating such a beautiful film and getting great performances from the actors. Will Smith gave a very emotionally charged, sensitive performance as Ben (comparable to his performance in The Pursuit of Happyness, also directed by Gabriele Muccino). Rosario Dawson is perfect. The supporting cast also did a great job at creating a touching experience.

 

Cast includes: Woody Harelson, Micheal Ealy, Barry Pepper, Elpidia Carrillo, Joe Nunez …

Director: Gabriele Muccino (The Persuit of Happyness * Remenber Me, My Love * TheLast Kiss)
Screenplay: Grant Nieporte
Release: 2008 (USA)
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 2 h 3min

 

©2018

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movie reviews

Punch-Drunk Love

punch-drunk love

Barry Egan  (Adam Sandler) is a lonely awkward business man who works for a company that sells plungers. He is skittish,  spooked by loud noises, constantly wears the same outfit and is really uncomfortable with any kind of change. He  suffers from anxiety, he has a lot of anger issues, seems to be depressed and wonders if he should talk to someone about his issues. He has seven sisters and he seems a bit subdued by the women in his life. It doesn’t seem like he can  really stand up for himself.  Barry Egan  (Adam Sandler) is a lonely awkward business man who works for a company that sells plungers. He is skittish,  spooked by loud noises, constantly wears the same outfit and is really uncomfortable with any kind of change. He  suffers from anxiety, he has a lot of anger issues, seems to be depressed and wonders if he should talk to someone about his issues. He has seven sisters and he seems a bit subdued by the women in his life. It doesn’t seem like he can  really stand up for himself.

Barry discovers that he can collect airline miles using coupons in a food product  promotion and he becomes obsessed with collecting these airline miles… even though he doesn’t plan to ever go anywhere. When Lena (Emily Watson) shows up one morning to bring her car to the next door auto repair shop, Barry agrees to take her key and hand it to the mechanic, though he feels clearly uncomfortable with the situation. Barry calls a phone sex hot-line, because he is just looking for someone to talk to. The next day the woman from hot-line calls him back asking for money. In a panic he cancels his credit cards.  Lena shows up on the scene again and Barry finds himself agreeing to go out on a date with her, despite his trepidation and self-doubt.  When trouble arrives on Barry’s doorstep, he decides it’s time to take a little trip.

 

A well crafted, artfully  directed film with a wonderful screenplay and fantastic characters. The art design makes great use of colour to set tone and mood.   Barry is dressed in a blue suit for the majority of the film.  This resonates his discomfort with any kind of change, but also gives him a bit of a cartoon character feel. Lena, as the romantic interest,  is dressed in warmer tones: white and shades of red and plum. As far as the lighting goes, there is a brilliant interplay between shadow and light. The transitions between scenes are beautiful  paintings, a symphony of of colours and music.  The score  and sound editing  beautifully support  the story.
I’d describe this incredible movie as a work of art. It’s a sweet, off-beat  little romance with amazing moments with sweeping romantic music. There is a beautiful first kiss that will make your dorky little heart smile. You will find your self being really happy for Barry when he falls in love  (while also smiling and cringing at his awkwardness). You will want to cheering when he stands up for himself and directs  his anger in the right direction.
See its if you like weird characters and off-beat romantic comedies  Though sensitive viewers should  be warned that it also has some violence and strong language.

 

Cast includes: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luiz Guzman , Robert Smigel, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Julie Hermelin, Rico Bueno

Director & Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There will Be Blood)
Release: 2002 (USA)
Rating: R
Duration 1hr 35min
©2018

 

 

analysis

Excess Baggage vs A Life Less Ordinary

 

Both films were released in 1997.  Both are about a spoiled rich girl, trying to get her father’s attention, who is accidentally kidnapped by a troubled young man. In both cases they fall in love. I wouldn’t really call either films an example of Stockholm Syndrome, even though in both cases the kidnapping “victim”  identifies with the kidnapper, because the kidnappings are  accidental.
It often happens that movies with similar plots are released by different studios in the same year.  What makes a difference is the screenplay, director and cast.

spoilers

A Life Less Ordinary (ALLO for sake of comparison):
Running time: 103 min      Rated: R
Tagline: “A comedy for anyone who’s ever been in danger…of falling in love.”

Robert (Ewan McGregor) loses his job and confronts the company president.  He impulsively takes the boss’s daughter, Celine (Cameron Diaz),  as a hostage. He now finds himself as a kidnapper on the run with Celine.  In the meanwhile, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter),  are two angels on a mission from God to reestablish romance between modern man and woman.

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Cast includes: Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm and Timothy Olyphant.

Excess Baggage (EB for sake of comparison):
 Running time: 101 min      Rated: PG-13
Tagline: “You would NOT believe what a girl’s got to do, just to get a little attention”
A spoiled teenager, Emily (Alicia Silverstone), fakes her own kidnapping.  While she is in the trunk of her car, Vincent (Bencio Del Toro), a car thief steals her car and inadvertently becomes a kidnapper. There are sparks between them and they form a special bond. In the meanwhile her father has sent his associate, ” Uncle Ray” (Christopher Walken) to retrieve Emily.

Director: Marco Brambilla
Writer:  Max. D Adams (story & screenplay), Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais.
Cast includes: Harry Connick Jr., Jack Thompson and Nicholas Turturro.

Comparison:

  • EB is more realistic than ALLO, which has the fantasy element of two angels on a mission.
  • ALLO employs Deux ex machina. 
  • ALLO overall has the better cast and acting performances.
  • EB: Alicia  Silverstone  was nominated for a worst actress Razzie. Good performances from Walken and Del Toro.
  • ALLO has a more famous writer and director.
  • ALLO has better overall cinematogrpahy and editing.
  • Both have cool soundtracks.
  • EB is more main stream and did better at the box office.
  • EB was made for a budget of ± $20,000,000  and ALLO for  ± $12,000,000 (source: imdb)
  • ALLO has funnier dialogue.
  • The romantic relationship in ALLO is more volatile.
  • Emily (EB) fakes her own kidnapping to get attention and then gets kidnapped for real… Celine (ALLO) gets kidnapped by mistakes but then decides to exploit the situation (and test how much her father loves her), by making Robert demand a ransom.
  • Both female leads are willful and opinionated and will speak their minds, but Celine (ALLO) is more independent and a stronger character.
  • Both women are American.
  • Robert( ALLO) is just   sweet, but frustrated guy, a bit of a loser,  who is at the wrong time and the wrong place and haplessly becomes a criminal.  Vincent (EB) is a career criminal (who wants out), who is also at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets sucked into s sticky situation.
  • Both male characters are of foreign origin. Vincent is Latino and Robert is British.

I enjoyed both movies, but I slightly favour A Lifeless Ordinary, as it is quirkier and a lot more absurd, albeit a little over the top.  It also briefly features two beautiful Dobermans.

 

Memorable Dialogue:

——————————————————————————————————————————
Emily vs. Celine:

===Excess Baggage===

EMILY:
What… you’re done? You don’t wanna play anymore?

**
EMILY:
Oh, hi Dad, I’m okay but um… Daddy he made me touch his penis.

VINCENT:
[Vincent hangs up the phone] Touch what?

EMILY: Oops.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

CELINE:
“Kidnap For Beginners”, Chapter One. Have you even asked for a ransom yet?
**

CELINE:
If word got around that I had been liberated for half a million dollars, I could never show my face in polite society again. Diamonds have no value except that which is placed upon them.
—————————————————————————————————————————–

Vincent vs. Robert

===Excess Baggage===

VINCENT:
I once stole a Ferrari with a Chihuahua in the back. He made less noise than you do.

**
VINCENT:
I’ve known this girl for two days, are you tellin’ me I care more about her than you? You son of a bitch! You should’ve sold her when she was born for cash value Mr. Business Man!


===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Right you asshole, I’ve got your daughter here, and I’m gonna send her back in pieces if… OH! I’m sorry, madam. No, I haven’t got your daughter here, I’ve got someone else’s. No, we’re not married. Yes, I’ve read the same thing, it’s very hard to find suitable young men these days. Well, I’m sure your daughter’s very nice, in principle I’ve got no objection to meeting her…
[Celine hangs up the phone]

——————————————————————————————————————————

Relationships: 

===Excess Baggage:===

VINCENT:
How stupid do you think I am, huh?

EMILY:
How stupid is there?
**

VINCENT:
I got a Twinkie in the car. It’s all yours, if you want it. Just make this call for me.
**
VINCENT:
Let’s see… we’ve got rum, tequila and rum… Rum and tequila. What would you like?

EMILY:
You don’t have to be drunk to kiss me.

VINCENT:
Well… I’m not drunk.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Why are you such a pain to be with?

CELINE:
Because you tied me to a chair all night.
**

CELINE
Despite your crummy poem, I came to see you and all you could do was humiliate me and turn me away. I thought you were decent, but it turns out you’re just a lying, cheating bastard like all the rest.
**
CELINE:
What’s wrong?

ROBERT:
What’s wrong, you crazy bitch, is I thought you were gonna shoot me! THAT’S what’s wrong!

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©lowercase v  2017