Collateral Beauty

Year: 2016
Director: David Frankel
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley
Written by Noah Jackson

Once upon a time, in a composition/language class, we were studying fallacies of logic, in other words, things not to do in writing and argumentation. One of these fallacies was “overly sentimental appeals,” which basically means don’t take the sappy route in making an argument because there isn’t anything to argue about that’s constructive. Ladies and gentlemen, whoever wrote this steaming pile of garbage clearly needs to take that class.

Collateral Beauty’ stars 8 top-notch actors, including Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pen͂a, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, and Naomie Harris. These actors are talented and are indeed talented in this movie, however the movie has no idea how to respect their talent. Smith and Mirren are easily the best of the bunch, because they have actual characters to play and not just emotional set-ups designed to give the audience a reflexive, tear-jerking response. Every time Edward Norton was on screen, I wanted to scream, because he’s my favourite actor and I think he’s amazing, and what the hell was he doing in this movie? He plays a generic dude. Everyone plays a generic form of person. There’s no characterisation other than the aforementioned “overly sentimental appeals.” Giving someone cancer is not characterisation. Having someone walk around being moody and catatonic isn’t characterisation if there’s no comparison. And it’s not like the film couldn’t have included comparison because it’s only 97 minutes long, thankfully.

The plot for this movie is absolutely ridiculous. The trailer tells you that Will Smith is this broken person because he lost his child, and in self-healing, he writes three letters. The letters are to Love, Time, and Death, and then the next thing he knows, Love, Time, and Death respond to him personally and he goes on some soul search or something. And it’s around Christmas, and it’s in New York City, and there’s crying and drama and monologues with yelling about feelings and it looks like Oscar bait…BUT THAT’S NOT THE MOVIE!

Because the real movie (and this is not a spoiler because it gets revealed in the first 15 minutes) is about how Norton, Winslet, and Pen͂a (I don’t remember the character names and I saw the movie about 3 hours before writing this) want to convince the board of this company that they all work in that Will Smith is crazy and not capable of being in charge. So they hire actors to portray Love, Time, and Death to “respond” to his letters, and then they film him talking to these people, but in the footage they remove the “actors” to make him look crazy. And these guys do it out of so-called friendship or love or some bullshit, IT DOESN’T MATTER. The movie is bad! Don’t go see it! Unless you really like feeling like you got scammed, don’t see it!

The only positives I can say about this is that there’s clear competence displayed. The editing has good continuity, the actors are acting realistic, the direction is evenly paced, the cinematography is skyline shots of New York and bland dialogue scenes. Nothing is exceptional, nothing is above average. The script is absolutely horrible, starting with some stupid speech that Will Smith is giving and then immediately transitioning into him being sad and depressed with the next scene being his three “friends” explaining to the audience that his life was destroyed because his kid died. Not like the audience is smart enough to figure that out on our own. Everything is emotionally manipulative, with nothing really stemming from a place of organic interest, just sweeping violin music with actors crying on screen. A kid dies, someone has cancer, everyone’s sad, therefore audience is sad as well. Someone forgot to tell the production that generating emotion from an audience requires the audience be attached to something in the story. I don’t what I was supposed to attach to, but it sure wasn’t the characters.

In summation, the movie is Lifetime TV Original quality. I don’t know how these actors got involved. Maybe the studio wanted them all to opt out of their collective contracts. Maybe the script the actors got was different than the one read on screen. Maybe they had a death wish for their career. Either way, don’t blame these actors for being in this garbage. Blame the screenwriter. Go see another movie in theatres. I hear Rogue One is pretty damn good.

P.S. What does “Collateral Beauty” even mean? They never explain it in the movie, and it just comes off as some phrase that tries to be deep, but doesn’t know how. Which is very similar to this movie.

 Noah’s Rating: 3.0 out of 10  

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