Directed by David Frankel
Starring Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet
Unable to come to terms with the loss of his young daughter, Howard Inlet (Will Smith) has given up on life, and dragged his once successful company down with him. After two years of being unable to break through to their clinically depressed friend, his business partners decide to hire a PI to tail him in the hopes that they can prove him mentally incapable of running a company, and remove him as an obstacle from the sale of the business. What they discover is Howard’s quirk of writing angry letters to universal abstracts – specifically; Death, Time and Love. In desperation they hit upon an idea to hire actors to play these figures, in hopes that their interaction will demonstrate Howard’s unfit mental state.
Where to even begin?!
Best to rip it off like a band-aid. This is…. bad. The extent to which that may be an understatement, is actually staggering.
Extensively this is a film that would have you believe that people are gas-lighting their boss (and friend) out of love and concern for his own well being. The profit margin from being a senior partner when the firm is sold off, is purely a secondary consideration.
Let’s be frank here. No matter how you sugar coat it, it’s a dick move. There ain’t no coming back from that.
So…we have a film about a whole lot of selfish people, just being awful. It could be good bones to build a black comedy upon. Instead Collateral Beauty demonstrates a complete lack of awareness, and praises this behaviour. On this ethical quagmire it attempts to build a feel-good magical reality. Basically the equivalent of trying to reclaim the land from a toxic waste dump, by placing some glitter and rainbow stickers over it – with similar results.
Collateral Beauty soon sinks into this mire, but surprisingly refuses to stop. As the film progresses, it just builds in wretchedness, creating a myriad of coincidences that become increasingly unlikely. Now to be fair, there is a reason behind this, it is just a patiently ridiculous one. Maybe if Collateral Beauty created that sense of wonder and mysticism it is obviously reliant upon, it would be able to earn this indulgence from the audience. Instead it blindly ploughs on revealing one ludicrous plot twist after another, till you feel like screaming your frustration at the screen.
Full disclosure, that last part may have actually happened.
Saddled with this, the excellent ensemble cast does what they can. Will Smith’s struggles as a man dealing with great loss, giving it his all. Unfortunately he never seems to have the dramatic range to really make this believable. The rest seem to be walking through it, although at least Helen Mirren appears to be having fun playing a Thespian hack. That’s not a good thing, but it is somewhat mollifying to see someone get some gratification out of this turkey.
A truly noxious film with an overwhelming misguided sense of its own profundity. Right out of the gate, this may be a strong contender for one of the worst films of 2017.