Warner Bros. has had a bad year critically. Their major tentpole films have been met with much critical panning and in turn fairly subpar box office returns. Now, Warner Bros. has undertaken a major challenge. They have opened a drama, albeit with A-list talent, against the biggest franchise in the world. Collateral Beauty isn’t going to be the critical salvation for WB, nor the box office savior. In fact, the studio has taken a cast with immeasurable talent, and turned over it’s worst movie of the year. Not only is it bad, Collateral Beauty is the one of the worst marketed films of the year. Within the first 20 minutes of the film, it changes direction from what you were told by the marketing. It is a manipulative waste of the talent involved and 90 minutes of your life.
Collateral Beauty is directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) and stars Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Micheal Pena, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Naomie Harris. The film tells the story of Howard (Smith) a successful ad executive in New York whose friends and colleagues (Norton, Pena and Winslet) decide to hire actors to portray death, love and time. Howard has been writing letters to the three while neglecting his business after the tragic death of his daughter. That is what the trailer will want you to believe. There is something far more nefarious here. In the film, Howard’s co-workers hire these actors (Knightley, Mirren and Jacob Lattimore) in order to prove Howard has gone crazy by filming conversations between them and editing out the actors.
Norton, Winslet and Pena are truly despicable characters. The films progression shows these three characters paired up with the actors hired to personify the things Howard writes to. Predictably, each character learns something from the personifications. Pena is paired with death, and he is dying of cancer. Winslet is debating having baby via a sperm donor, she is paired with time. Lastly, Norton is paired with love and he has a daughter who is cold to him.
Everything in this film is so predicable and incredibly manipulative. You see every silly plot twist coming and it’s often painful when we get to those plot twists. The shame is, all of these actors are giving it everything they have. But, when you are tasked with acting out a bad script, a good performance is all you can give. It truly baffles me that such an awful script was able to get such A-list talent. The entire thing feels painfully phony. There is no honest emotion in the film no matter how hard it tries.
Collateral Beauty sucks all the life out of it’s charismatic actors. Smith never smiles aside from his two or three minutes at the beginning of the film and is just a melancholy guy. Frankel and screenwriter Allen Loeb attempt to pry a profound meaning out of this film. Most notably, the events of the film take place around Christmas time and Frankel tries to make a Charles Dickens inspired story. Except Howard is not just a mean guy, he has gone through an incredibly tragic experience and he has awful friends trying to boot him out of his company.
This film is so far removed from reality it’s hard to find any value in it. It is one of those films where you can’t believe what is happening on screen in front of you. And I don’t mean that in a good way. The dialogue is so boring and painfully cliche. The movie has more on its mind than comes out on the screen and Loeb’s script is to blame. It’s a half baked concept with nothing important to say. Collateral Beauty is a shallow, atrocious and self-indulgent film that will rank among the years worst films.