Written by: Allan Loeb
Directed by: David Frankel
Starring: Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Ed Norton, Kate Winslet
Running Time: 97 minutes
With an ensemble cast and a solid premise, you’d expect this film to tick all the boxes. Here’s the complete Collateral Beauty Review:
An advertising executive battles depression after the death of his only child and writes letters to Love, Time & Death, only to get the most unexpected of responses.
The Three Abstractions
Howard (Will Smith) is a top-notch advertising executive who is deep in depression after the loss of his only child. He convicts himself to social imprisonment – shows up to work but doesn’t say a word, goes out only to try and get hit by oncoming traffic or sits in a dark corner of his flat.
His three best friends – Whit (Edward Norton), Simon (Michael Pena) and Claire (Kate Winslet) – are worried sick about him, but with the firm losing business and their careers on the line with Howard not himself, their priorities change.
They hire a detective to track Howard’s movements and discover that he’s been writing letters – not to people – to abstractions such as Love, Time & Death. Whit devices a plot to convince the board that Howard is not mentally stable enough to run the company.
They hire actors to represent abstractions – Amy (Keira Knightley) as Love, Raffi (Jacob Latimore) as Time & Brigitte (Helen Mirren) as Death. As these actors confront Howard as the abstractions, Howard begins to question his own sanity, while his three best friends start realizing that they have their own battles to fight.
It’s that time of the year when tear-jerking dramas with ensemble casts are aplenty. With the Oscars coming up, this is Will Smith’s one chance to gain solid ground in the chase.
It’s meant to be a deep drama highlighting the true meaning of life – the kind of movie that changes your perspective. It’s anything but.
In fact, it would be surprising if David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) wins anything but a Razzie. The concept is supposedly a deep one. With such an ensemble cast as the driving force, the film should win over hearts & awards alike, but what Frankel has tried to do is still a mystery, unlike the rather obvious ‘plot twists’ in the film.
Ironically, the only thing tearjerker in this film is how poorly the characters are written. There is no real depth to any of them. Add to that a bunch of tacky lines with platitudes galore. To top it off, there are two cringeworthy plot twists at the end, which are off-the-rack predictable.
Aside from story, other aspects of the film couldn’t save it either. The DOP does a half-decent job in bringing out the holiday feel of the movie. Then again, this isn’t that kind of movie anyway. The music by Theodore Shapiro is uninspiring.
The Fresh Prince
The idea was clear. Will Smith (The Pusuit of Happyness, I Am Legend) is supposed to run the show. It’s how players of a sport act in the dying moments of a game – pass the ball to their best player hoping he can produce something magical, but there’s only so much one player can do.
Smith does try. Certain scenes remind us all of what he’s best at: raw emotion. However, there are moments where his work slags – like he realized his mistake.
Then there are the muddled bunch of best friends – Ed Norton (The Fight Club, American History X) as Whit, Michael Pena (The Martian, Ant-Man) as Simon & Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) as Claire. None of them look like they know what they’re doing. Their characters are given little to play with and the performances look washed out.
The three abstractions provide some relief. Helen Mirren (The Queen, The Debt) attempts her bit as the comic relief and does a fair job. Keira Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean, Pride & Prejudice), is convincing as Love. Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner, Ride Along) proves he has a lot to learn.
Another star who deserves a mention is Naomie Harris (Skyfall, 28 Days Later) as Madeleine. Although her character is clichéd, she executes her part fairly well.
All in All
Collateral Beauty is a baffling product – not because of its plot, but because of how awful it turns out to be. The film does not do anything it’s supposed to – evoke intense empathy, leave us reflective or feeling grateful.
The ensemble cast is wasted and their characters are not wishy-washy.
The end is supposed to teach you that there is a certain beauty in loss and grief, but audiences will not see any beauty in the money and time they’ve thrown away.
Watch it if you’re: A fan of Will Smith OR have absolutely nothing else to do.