Movie Review: Collateral Beauty Starring Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley


Never trust most adverts, they always undercut on their promises. With movies, the industrial world building goes to new levels, creating events and heightening anticipation so much that the wait for the movies have become almost as good, if not sometimes better, than the actual movie. A recent example is the last installment in the Bond Franchise. I forget the title now.

Collateral Beauty, an ensemble of some of Hollywood’s best and best looking, dripping charm and warmth, fails on both counts. After a suspiciously misleading trailer, one that already overplays the sentiment card but manages to offset some of it with charm, the movie itself falls quickly into the “waiting for this thing to end so I didn’t feel like I wasted my ticket territory.

It begins with a Will Smith-esque man played by Will Smith. Successful, charismatic, inspiring. Then time strikes and he loses his daughter. Suddenly we have alte-Will Smith who creates massive architectural dominoes (the longest took him five days) and tips them over, only to walk away sad eyed and return to rebuild them. He also averages eight hours of sleep a week. Poor guy.

His business partners need him to come back to the land of the alive, because they will be broke if they keep losing clients and they need to buy him out for self-preservation reasons. So they plot and fail to come up with anything good. That is until a chance encounter between one of them and a beautiful actress auditioning for a role, gives them the brilliant idea to cast actors as Love, Death and Time, concepts to which Mr Smith has been writing morose fake deep letters to. They know this because they had him followed and stole his mail.

Still, it is not all bad. A testament to acting skills transcending below average material. The trio of Love, Death and Time display genuine warmth on screen and it is hard pressed for Ellen Mirren to be terrible in anything. Keira Knightley is a beauty to look at and to watch acting. Newcomer, Jacob Lattimore rounds up the set nicely. However none of them have distinguishing moments. Not that the movie is generous with spectacular moments, given its operatic themes of grief and release of grief.

But something must be said for Will Smith. The man who has built a career on mostly being himself on screen (who can resist such a presence like his), tries here to recreate his emotional powerhouse performance in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” It is a largely ineffective performance but there are brief moments of true sadness, most memorably a scene on the train with Death when he recounts, with sarcasm then grief, how others simply expect people going through grief to move on because it has been suggested. A risk seeing as the point of Collateral Beauty is to track a man’s fall and recovery from said grief.

The supporting characters, Ms Winslet, Mr Pena and Mr Norton are about as half-baked as tired screenwriting can get. The plan is clear (even the financial motive carries credence), but for the life and love of filmmaking, the backstories were almost as pointless as they were cheap attempts to garner some level of audience reliability. Or for maximum effect sighs and tears. Why else would Kate Winslet’s character have so much guilt, yet proceed to commit to the actions which trigger all the guilt and tears. There is a storyline featuring Norton and Knightley which begins and vanishes possibly because the director and writers forgot, seeing as they were occupied with the other subplots, the weakest of which involves Naomie Harris and a couple of reveals wasted on the audience because at this point, we were all ready for the end credits. Micheal Pena coughs a lot and looks sad a lot. That is about the extent of him.

The cinematography and soundtrack were adequate for the circumstances. If one is looking for a deep emotional or transformative cinema experience, you can afford to skip this feature.

From the Sodas ‘N’ Popcorn headquaters, Collateral Beauty earns Popcorn and water.