Collateral Beauty (2016) – Review

Director: David Frankel
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley

This review is spoiler free!

The Overview
Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
Like the film itself, with its mercifully short run-time (97 minutes), I won’t keep you in this particular section for too long. Related point, one of the best things about this film is that its really short. It is a film which beats you over the head for long enough, so it is a welcome turn of events that it doesn’t really out-stay its welcome.

The cast is truly excellent on paper, and indeed there are some snippets of good performances from some of the cast. Will Smith is always pretty watchable, and whilst he has very limited material to work with here, he does a pretty good job with what he has. Equally, Helen Mirren is able to come out of the murky depths of the truly god-awful script with her reputation still in tact, and again, does fine with the material on offer. 

The Bad
So without getting knee-deep into spoiler territory, I will say that like Passengers (my hatred of which is starting to get quite the reputation!), the marketing, and more specifically the trailer for Collateral Beauty is incredibly misleading.

If you think you’re getting a lovely heart-warming little story with a healthy dose of heart-string tugging in there, then you might be a little surprised. The plot of this film is surprisingly cruel, and it is a rather difficult hill to get over. It not only makes the story very difficult to enjoy because it is so unpleasant, but it also means the characters are completely unlikeable! Its faux-earnestness is quite a difficult pill to swallow, and it only serves to highlight how tricky it is to get on board with a film which is supposed to make you “feel all the feels”, when sympathy for the characters and their situations is difficult to find. 

The plot is borderline insulting in its contrivances. Collateral Beauty is beyond contrived. It is a film which not only spoon-feeds you, but one which wipes your chin, pats you on the head, and coos somewhat sarcastically in your ear “how good you are for eating it all up”. The fact that each character has something which is supposed to make you feel sorry for them is laughably convenient, and the way it insists upon itself that “everything and everyone is connected” is so detestable.  

The name of the movie itself is a source of much annoyance. It is a phrase which is delivered without explanation by a character to another character, and then relayed to us again with no interpretation, no clue, and no hint as to what it means, or its significance. It is the film equivalent of someone who persistently clogs up your social media feeds with artistically cursive quote images, accompanied with the caption “so true”, yet they never offer a further interpretation or insight into the significance it has on their life. It is something which, like this film, is entirely pointless and empty. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Collateral Beauty is really, really bad. It is aggressively manipulative in the way it tries to provoke an emotional reaction, and relentlessly ham-fisted in the quasi-philosophical garbage it so insistently presents to you. It is baffling that a cast this great could appear in a film this terrible. Avoid at all costs!  

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