Jake Richardson | 19/01/2017
Star power can’t save Collateral Beauty, the hammy Christmas-set drama about a father struggling with the loss of his daughter.
Collateral Beauty follows Howard Inlet (Will Smith), a successful, charismatic advertising executive who has become clinically depressed and borderline suicidal after the death of his six year old daughter. His business partners, Whit Yardshae (Edward Norton), Claire Wilson (Kate Winslet) and Simon Scott (Michael Pena), fear for their friend and for their business, as Howard’s behaviour puts the sale of their company in jeopardy. The three partners, after finding out that Howard has been writing letters to Love, Time and Death, decide to hire three actors to play the three concepts. Even as Howard meets a new girl, Madeleine (Naomie Harris), he begins to believe that he is having hallucinations as he comes face to face with these three metaphysical ideas that, he believes, have ruined his life.
Directed by David Frankel, the film is utterly disappointing. The star power can’t save a screenwriter and director who seem intent on ramming exposition down our throats, with the vast majority of character development conveyed through characters just shouting it at each other. Worse than this is the utter unlikeability of any of the characters. Helen Mirren’s actress comes across as petty and narcissistic, Edward Norton’s creepy stalking of Keira Knightley’s actress plays as disturbing, and Michael Pena may as well be phoning it in with the leaden performance he gives.
All of them seem like shining stars compared to Smith though. Will Smith ditches almost all of the charisma that made him a star and presents us with a blubbering, bicycle-riding mess incapable of seeing the struggle of the people around him. Smith can be good in dramatic roles (read: Pursuit of Happyness, or Ali) but here he skews hard towards Seven Pounds levels of mopey-dramaticism.
Indeed, the whole film comes off a needlessly trying schmaltz. Each of the three business partners conveniently develop relationships with the actors portraying the exact theoretical concepts they are struggling with. Edward Norton struggles with his daughter not loving him, and is conveniently matched up with Keira Knightley’s actress who is playing Love! Michael Pena has entered remission, and forges a relationship with Helen Mirren’s Death! Kate Winslet can’t have a baby because she waited too long, and the only person she can confide in is Jacob Latimore’s Time! It is all just too convenient and unbelievable. Coupled with a slew of utterly despicable characters, and dialogue that feels as believable as one of the commercials these advertising exec’s probably wrote, Frankel’s film comes off as the worst type of pandering.
Redeeming features can be found in the beautiful New York set design and cinematography, along with a board room scene that actually manages to breathe life into the relationships between Howard and his three business partners, but they are too few and far between to fix a disastrous film. And with an ending that not only feels utterly ridiculous, but opens up a series of plot holes, you’ll come out wishing you had given this one a miss.
David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty attempts to provide an answer to the question of how to deal with the loss of a child, but in the end the only question it satisfactorily answers is “What will be the worst movie of 2017?”