As expected, the associations of female critics have a slightly different take on the best and worst films of the year than the male-dominated critic groups. One thing that makes them fun is the extra categories, like Most Offensive Male Characters, Most Egregious Age Difference Between Leading Man, and Love Interest and Actress in Need of a New Agent.
The Women Film Critics Circle Awards 2008
BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
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.
Here’s my very favorite scene from the best-loved Christmas classic of all, It’s a Wonderful Life. Watch how George Baily (Jimmy Stewart) tries so hard not to be in love with Mary (Donna Reed) but just can’t help it.
Fans of the movie will enjoy Zuzu Bailey’s It’s A Wonderful Life Cookbook: Recipes and Anecdotes Inspired by America’s Favorite Movie, written by the actress who played George’s daughter, and The Essential It’s a Wonderful Life: A Scene-By-Scene Guide to the Classic Film, with lots of great details and behind-the-scenes stories.