Out this Stephen’s Day is Collateral Beauty, starring an incredible ensemble cast headlined by “Big Willy” himself Will Smith. The story of Collateral Beauty follows Howard Inlet (Smith), a successful entrepreneur who has fallen into a deep depression following the death of his child two years prior. While Howard grieves his friends and company are suffering as his disconnect from the world has allowed his company to fall on hard times and the financial security of his employees is a major problem. This makes his friends Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslett) and Simon (Michael Peña) decide that they have to come up with a plan to make him sell the company so that they can secure everyone’s finances. Having already tried and failed with counselling, intervention, and their personal consoling Whit comes up with a “unique” approach. They hire three actors: Aimee (Kiera Knightley), Brigitte (Helen Mirren) and Raffi (Jacob Latimore) to portray Love, Death, and Time respectively the three cosmic forces that Howard writes to because he is trying to make sense of what has happened to him. The trio hopes that if Howard engages with these “concepts”, it will help him finally deal with his daughter’s death and bring him back to the land of the living.
Collateral Beauty works on one level, and that is the emotional one, Smith, in my opinion, has never been better. Smith’s performance is subtle and profound; Howard is a man betrayed by everything he believed in as we see a brief glimpse of who he was before his daughter’s death and he was fun, charming individual. The transformation from that man to the man we meet two years later is stark and haunting, and Smith carries that through the entire film until an emotionally shattering scene in the third act which brought the house down in the cinema I was in. I am verging on tears at the moment just thinking about that scene, and that is a testament to Will Smiths astonishing performance. Up there with him is Naomie Harris who plays Madeleine a character who interacts with Howard several times during the film and each time they’re together the film gets better.
Unfortunately, that’s where the majority of the positives end, the story is predictable, the direction and cinematography are amateurish, and when the dialogue can make you get annoyed at the legendary Helen Mirren you know, you’re in trouble. The main gimmick of Collateral Beauty is the idea of the three comic beings visiting Howard to help him get back to the world, and the similarity to another story based around Christmas is not lost on me. The stories execution is just so weak especially when you can see the potential gem hidden deep within crying out for attention. Apart from Smith’s performance sadly a lot of the film is blatant, the progression of the story is transparent, the individual character arcs are garish at times, and they take away from what is at the centre of this convoluted mess, a deeply tragic and strikingly human story.
When I came away from Collateral Beauty I was perplexed, the story was okay, but with so many dialogue issues, and directorial choices I was unimpressed for two-thirds of this film. Will Smith almost single-handedly won me over, though, not enough to say this is a great film but through his performance, I ended up coming out of Collateral Beauty satisfied.