Collateral Beauty Movie Review
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When you think leading actors in a serious drama, Will Smith wouldn’t necessarily be near the top of that list. This two time Academy Award nominee is back once again to prove that Independence Day isn’t the only holiday where the talented actor can thrive. The question becomes, is the world ready to accept a 100% serious Will Smith with open arms AND open wallets? His latest movie, Collateral Beauty will go a long way in gauging how he’s perceived as a serious actor and if his longtime fans are willing to come out in droves to seem not cracking jokes or shooting at things.
Howard (Will Smith) is clearly a man in indescribable pain. Once an outgoing leader at a very successful company, now he’s just a broken shell of the person that he used to be. The one thing that he loved most in this world was ripped away from him and there seems to be no coming back from it. His young daughter, only six years old, passed away and this even completely broke Howard. He divorced, alienated friends and coworkers, and now his company is on the verge of either failing or being sold. Howard doesn’t care about such things, as a matter of fact he cares very little about anything now. Occasionally he writes angry letters to help him get feelings off of his chest. The odd thing about these letters is that he’s not writing them to people but rather to things. You see, he has a real problem with Death, Time and Love but has no problem giving each of them a piece of his mind. What if they answered these angry letters? That’s the path that Collateral Beauty takes.
Will Smith (Suicide Squad (2016)) takes on this emotionally charged lead role and this might catch the casual fan off guard. Most think comedy and action when it comes to discussing his previous works. I’m personally guilty of the same “lumping” until I step back and really think about it for a moment. In addition to those staple genres, Smith also enjoys the more serious roles from time to time. Just last year he gave a very inspiring performance in the sports docu-drama, Concussion (2015) and several years prior to that he starred in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and Seven Pounds (2008). The difference this time around is that in Collateral Beauty, Smith has probably the most talented supporting cast he’s ever had in a drama. Edward Norton (The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)), Kate Winslet (The Dressmaker (2015)), Michael Peña (The Martian (2015)), Naomie Harris (Moonlight (2016)), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game (2014)) and Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky (2016)) all costar. Each actor has appeared in award nominated movies over the past few years. This makes the bar high by default.
Director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada (2006)) may have bitten off more than he can chew here. As the story progresses it seems that the depth goes missing in action. What starts off as a promising drama turns into more of a non-Christmas-y “Scrooge” type movie. While attempting to maintain a veil of mystery, intrigue and second guessing, Frankel instead releases the firm grip that he once had on the audience’s interest. Collateral Beauty quickly morphs itself into more of a fantasy than a hard-nosed drama. The collective talent fails to bring everything full circle back to the enjoyment felt in the first third of the movie.
Collateral Beauty is a victim of preconceived expectations. All of the parts are greater than the sum in this particular case. When you think Will Smith, you think you’re going to be knocked out of your seat by something. Maybe it’s the action, visual effects or even the comedy. In this case it’s simply a nudge and there’s not enough nudging to cause me to strongly recommend rushing out to see this. That being said, the plot is truly a heartfelt one and emotions will run high. I simply expected a bit more. This really holds true for those on the fence about whether to pay premium prices or not. There are much stronger options in theaters right now that should be seen on a big screen but unfortunately this slightly misses that cut.