#REVIEW: “COLLATERAL BEAUTY”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
After the death of his six-year-old daughter, Howard (Will Smith) is an empty shell of his former self. He barely communicates with anyone, and spends most of his days at work building massive structures of dominoes. But when he is visited by people he once thought of as concepts, he begins to open up and embrace the tragedy that has caused him so much pain.
Quite honestly, Collateral Beauty is a chaotic mess. Instead of focusing on Howard and his journey, the Film really plays into its tagline of “We are all connected” and focuses on at least eight characters to varying effect. The motivations of each character is questionable – specifically the ugly reason why these people begin visiting Howard – as are the stories that attempt to develop around them. When the Film ends after its breezy 96-minute running time, not one of the half dozen subplots is fully resolved. We get some catharsis and plenty of ridiculously sad moments, but I was left more bewildered at what was left out. Even more frustrating is the magical element hinted at in the trailers and marketing for the “characters” of Love, Time and Death (played here by Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore and Helen Mirren). Their part in the story gets needlessly complicated and twisted up for literally no reason at all, leaving me to wonder why they were not more streamlined.
It should come as no surprise that the acting suffers under the weight of the chaotic plot. Director David Frankel has brought together an Oscar-friendly cast but never seems to give them any form of direction. As a result, it seems like they are each acting in their own different movie. Mirren is exquisite as always, having a blast as the scenery chewing Death – but the Film is constantly at odds with her comedic interpretation. Michael Peña is absolutely terrific in his small role as one of Howard’s co-workers, but his “twist” does not have any real payoff. Knightley’s role is small but pivotal, yet she inexplicably disappears during the Second Act. Smith plays against type, acting more with his facial expressions and eyes than he does with his voice. It works best when he is playing off of one of his cast mates as opposed to his moments alone, specifically his intimate moments with future Oscar nominee Naomie Harris. If the Film had focused on these two characters and left the rest of the cast as genuine supporting players, it would have been a much stronger and cohesive picture.
Collateral Beauty is a messy Film about life and the tragedies and mistakes that define us. It is far from perfect and the overall thesis is questionable at best, but there is some genuinely great acting on display here from Mirren, Peña and Harris – who might actually be the very best thing about the Film. Just make sure you have your tissues at the ready.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release COLLATERAL BEAUTY on Friday, December 16, 2016.