Hot Take: Sure, this movie is terrible. However, don’t forgot to enjoy the collateral beauty of some excellent performers doing their best to make this sappy, hole-filled Hallmark Channel film into something almost watchable.
Any film that can snatch Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris and Michael Pena has to get some kudos. If Garry Marshall wasn’t dead, I would have thought this was one of his Frankensteinian minor holiday creations that somehow attracts A-list talent to make basic cable-worthy material. However, Collateral Beauty is not directed by the late Marshall but instead by David Frankel whose resume includes The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me but since 2008 has not reached the same heights despite Collateral Beauty being his fourth directorial effort since the tearfest that is Marley & Me. I guess you could count 2012’s Hope Springs as a critical success and it wasn’t terrible at the box office but it was also a step back from the previously mentioned success.
Collateral Beauty, however, taking out the talent that appeared, features a 0-star storyline with enough holes in it to be mistaken for Swiss cheese. Somehow the talent manages to carry this film from awful to below average as they deliver cheesy lines and the multi-layered storyline somehow interconnects in the most convenient of coincidences. Since the trailers give most of this film away, it’s fair to talk about the film and give minor spoilers. As you may have gleaned from those trailers, Howard (Smith) has lost his daughter and now is in a position where his hatred of life and inability to let go is affecting his friends who also happen to be his business partners. He writes angry letters to love, death and time. So, his three friends get the bright idea to hire actors to play the “abstractions” and, coincidentally, the three friends get partnered up with the abstraction that fits their current state. Simon (Pena) spends time with Death (Mirren) as Simon is battling a relapse of cancer he’s battled all his life that now looks to be terminal. Claire (Winslet) spends time with Time (Jacob Lattimore) as she desperately tries to help Howard but also explores the idea of beating her biological clock with a sperm donor to begin a family. Whit (Norton) flirts his way around Love (Knightley) in between delivering sappy lines about how much he loves his daughter who hates him because he cheated on his wife (her mother) and ruined their family. Norton’s Whit gets the award for cheesiest line of the film when he says when describing the first time he held his daughter, “It wasn’t that I felt love, it was that I felt that I had become love.” It’s all convenient. And terrible. And hard to watch at points.
If it weren’t for the talent-filled cast and the consistency of Smith who seems to make the best of a bad situation yet again, (He’s on a bad run of selecting projects to work on.) Collateral Beauty might have been one of the worst films of the year. Instead, it is a really bad film worse than at least 130 films that made it to the big screen in 2016.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Naomie Harris
Harris doesn’t have much to work with, either and this in no way comes close to her work in Moonlight but she’s proving that she’ll be one to watch no matter how bad of a film she is cast in.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Basically, A Big Screen Basic Cable Flick
We’ve seen this a lot in 2016. Maybe it’s the success of Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel that makes Hollywood think there’s an appetite for big screen versions of these types of films with all star casts.
- The Third Act Feels Like It’s Out of Some Sort of Rewrite Hell
Maybe it’s just me but the way this film wraps up doesn’t feel like the way the film was originally supposed to wrap up. Maybe I’m wrong but damn if it doesn’t feel like a film that screened poorly and received a new ending to attempt to salvage a film that didn’t test well.
- New York City Isn’t That Small
Please show me the city streets in NYC that are as conveniently empty as the ones in Collateral Beauty. It’s also highly unlikely that only one person would be recording unusual behavior in public.