There’s not really much I would want to say about this movie that I could say without issuing a SPOILER WARNING right up front. I suspect you’ll have a pretty good idea what’s really going on here by at least the halfway point. I did, a little earlier than that. And I was right, though I may not have known all the details. I mean, what is an IRS agent doing living in a large house on the beach in what looks like Point Dume? You have any idea what a falling-down shack sells for in that area, or anywhere on the coast, for that matter? All I could think was, I hope the IRS isn’t paying its agents salaries like that. But when you see Will Smith seeking out a woman who needs a heart transplant, a blind man, and a man who is in kidney dialysis, and trying to find out if they are good people … well, isn’t it pretty obvious that he intends to donate his heart, his eyes, and his kidneys? And we know he isn’t dying, because the movie opens with him calling 911 to report his own suicide. We see little flashes of his self-loathing and other little details that seem to indicate he may be responsible for the deaths of seven people, including his wife. And that is the case. He’s a man trying to make amends, who can no longer live with himself, but doesn’t want to throw away the one thing he has left, which is the potential in his body for saving others. The only mystery, in my mind, was what being an IRS agent had to do with all this, and that is sorted out in a believable fashion near the end.
Not a bad story (certainly not as bad as many of the reviews would have you believe). Naturally, Will falls in love with the heart lady (Rosario Dawson), and you wonder if he might now have found a reason to live … but what a quandary! She has a rare blood type—the same as his, which is why he picked her—and the chances of another heart being found are remote, so if he doesn’t off himself, she will die, and quite soon.
Will Smith is trying to stretch himself, to move beyond the amiable comedies he is so good at, and I applaud that. You don’t want to end up a pathetic case like Will Ferrell, stuck in the same schtick you were doing a long time after it stopped being funny, as in the terrible Land of the Lost. But he’d better not abandon the lighter stuff. I kept feeling that any number of actors could have done this part, and a lot of them could have done it better. And the movie suffers a bit from lack of pacing. I think it could have been fifteen minutes shorter and would have then packed a harder punch.
Technical objections: I had never seen a suicide by jellyfish. Will has a large cylindrical tank in his beach house with a jellyfish in it, and later moves tank and jelly to a motel. I got the feeling the screenwriter overreached a bit in trying to come up with something novel, but I had a hard time buying it. For one thing, I’ve kept saltwater fish, and it’s not easy. Jellyfish don’t live very long in a tank—it’s only recently that large aquaria have begun displaying them—and they would not be likely to survive the handling that the one in this film gets. I’m not sure if home aquaria are up to the task of keeping these creatures alive for even a little while. I could be wrong about that; there have been a lot of advances in the technology since I pursued the hobby. And it’s minor, a fussbudget complaint, I admit; it makes a good visual. But a more serious problem is using them as a means of suicide. The box jellyfish is indeed (as we see in a DVD extra) extremely poisonous, the scourge of Australian beaches. So if you intend to donate your organs after your death … do you really want those organs infused with the deadliest neurotoxin in the world? I think not. (It is also said to be the most intense pain humans can endure.) It left me wondering what would be the best way to kill yourself and leave the important bits salvageable? Ideas, anyone? Maybe the David Carradine way out?