Movie Review: “Collateral Beauty”
Howard runs a successful company with a philosophy on humanity and our relationship with Death, Time and Love. Howard's life is turned upside down with the passing of his six year old daughter and, three years later, he had yet to recover. His company is struggling and his employees/friends (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena) discover that he has been writing and mailing passionate hate mail and addressing it to Death, Time and Love (each receiving separate letters). As Howard's friends try to find a way to help, Howard begins to be visited by Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley).
The Pros & Cons
Will Smith (+10pts)
Actors or Actual? (-5pts)
Plot Twists (+5pts)
Best Friend Goals (-5pts)
Side Storylines (+5pts)
Death, Time & Love (-2pts)
Pro: Will Smith (+10pts)
I thought Will Smith was incredible in this movie. If you've read the synopsis or seen the trailer then you know that his character suffers a great loss from the passing of his six year old daughter. The pain that Will Smith conveys throughout the movie was powerful and had me glued to the screen for every scene that he was in. From the subtle pain visible in his facial expressions to passionate and intense dialogue, Will Smith added so much to this movie and is the standout of a film filled with amazing talent. The rest of the actors in Collateral Beauty were great as well and deserve recognition, but Will Smith was impressive to watch. I am not sure if he will or should win, but I believe that Will Smith deserves an Oscar nomination for this performance.
Con: Actors or Actual (-5pts)
After seeing all the trailers, I had one question going into Collateral Beauty. I knew that Howard (Will Smith) would be visited by Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley) but what was unclear was whether or not these three entities were hired actors by the friends or the actual entities of Death, Time and Love. The decision that the movie made was fine, but I thought the movie really dropped the ball on the whole concept. The trailers seemed to be aware of the fun mystery that the audience could go on, if the movie kept us guessing. The film itself gave almost no focus to this element of the story. While some could say this didn't hurt the movie, I think Collateral Beauty would have been way more entertaining if the filmmakers had went along with the mystery of actors vs. actual and kept us guessing till the very end.
Pro: Plot Twists (+5pts)
There were, in a way, two plot twists in this movie. Both of them were great in the sense that I did not see them coming until a few seconds before the reveal. What was more great was the fact that thinking back on the film, the movie had been dropping hints for these twists the entire time. I thought one plot twist did not get much of a focus so that one was not as impactful as the other, but both, make me want to watch the film again to see all the hints that were right in front of me the whole time. A couple of those hints (in my initial viewing) had me thinking "oh that's an interesting coincidence" yet I still did not suspect that plot twist even though I should no by now not to believe in coincidence in movies. I do not know if these plot twists worked for everyone, if people saw them coming or if they were as oblivious as I was, but for me the plot twists worked.
Con: Best Friend Goals (-5pts)
Alright, I will try to be as vague as I can to avoid spoilers. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena play Howard's (Will Smith) friends and colleagues in Collateral Beauty. They are watching their friend in imaginable pain and suffering, and while they on the surface seem to care greatly about him their goal in this movie tells a different story. Rather than wanting him to simply get through it, they have another (less selfless) plan in mind. I had a problem with this for the simple fact that it took up screen time. There were a lot of more intriguing things about this movie that did not get focus because we spent time watching the friend's selfish plan.
Pro: Side Storylines (+5pts)
I absolutely loved the three side storylines of this movie. We get to know the three friends and colleagues played by Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena. We get to know them individually and we get to know them together. Individually, they each have their separate life issues that they are dealing with. Each performance was great and we get to see each of them paired with one of the "entities" which fit with their respective life issues which was compelling to watch. One could argue, that Will Smith was not the main character of the film and that these three characters shared co-lead. Each character was given heavy subject matter and each actor gave great performances which made for great side storylines to watch.
Con: Death, Time & Love (-2pts)
It is worth noting that my issues with the entities are not with the performance. Helen Mirren, Keira Knightely and Jacob Latimore gave great performance. I know I've said that for every actor in this movie but don't let that praise lose value. If I were to rate this movie purely on acting, I would have to give it an A+.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I do not think Howard (Will Smith) learned anything from these "entities". They each had one scene where he vents at them, and half of that dialogue was in the trailers so I did not feel that Howard got anything out of meeting these "entities". What made this more obvious was that Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena learned from their respective entities. Each of their storylines were furthered along by the entities where Howard's storyline was not. I did not think the entities worked liked they could have because they kind of failed in the main storyline.
Grade: B- (83pts)
Collateral Beauty was a brilliantly acted movie with a powerful plot. It has its issues with the delivery of the "entities" and their effect on Howard (Will Smith) and the goals of the three friends (which I personally did not support). I did think the plot twists worked really well for me, so much so that I am excited to see the movie a second time to pick up on all the clues to these twists that were there the whole time. While I definitely do recommend seeing this movie, whether you catch it in its last couple of weeks in theaters or wait for it's home video release.