Collateral Beauty Movie Review
When you’re desperate, you come off looking desperate—and boy, is Collateral Beauty desperate. The Will Smith-starring drama tries—oh man does it try—to be a smart, heartfelt, meaningful drama but it’s really a tired, misguided disaster that wastes its amazing cast.
Ed Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Naomi Harris, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore also have roles in this star-studded cesspool. Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and Allan “Best if You Don’t Mention Any of the Crappy Movies I’ve Written” Loeb, Collateral Beauty is the type of movie that delivers plenty of collateral damage—the audience being the primary victim.
Collateral Beauty is marketed as being about a depressed man who, after his daughter dies, is visited by three entities—Love, Time and Death—but in reality, the movie is much more complicated and less novel than that. Norton, Winslet and Peña play Smith’s business partners who, fearing for their friend’s sanity and seemingly more important their firm’s wellbeing, hire obnoxious theater actors to play Love, Time and Death to trick him into thinking he’s actually crazy.
The problem—well, one of many problems—is that the filmmakers never distinguish between the friends’ motivations to cure their friend and save their company so they can make lots of money. What at first seems like good intentions ends up feeling mean-spirited and downright immoral, despite Loeb’s awkward attempts to humanize the three of them by awkwardly exploring their own personal demons. Ultimately, the movie is only partially about Smith—and it suffers as a result. Norton cheated on his wife and is trying to win back the love of his young daughter, who rightfully blames him. Winslet wants a family but is too old to start one, but you wouldn’t know it unless the movie directly tells you that. And Peña has a secret that he’s dealing with.
There’s about ten hours of drama packed into this 95 minute film, and none of it is particularly compelling. Had Collateral Beauty focused more exclusively on Smith’s troubles—he’s definitely the best part of the movie, though that’s not saying much—then the film may have been salvageable, but the filmmakers stretch their characters so thin it’s impossible to care about any of it.
Of course, that’s no excuse for the crappy dialogue and overall lame concept. With better writing, the whole Love, Time and Death thing could have worked—hell, who am I kidding? It’s one of those sappy, high-concept ideas that Hollywood wants to convince us are worth the time, but rarely are. Collateral Beauty doesn’t even come close, and the result is an embarrassing effort for all involved.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.