Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, came to theaters about a year ago. When I first saw the trailers, I was intrigued, but never found time to sit down and watch it. So when I was strapped into a plane for eleven hours with nothing to do and I saw Collateral Beauty pop up on the movie list, I was more than happy to burn ninety minutes on it.

The basic, spoiler-free plot of the film is as follows: Howard (Will Smith) is the head of a literary organization, but after the death of his young child he has lapsed into a depressed and apathetic state. As such, his company is suffering without his leadership. While he writes letters to the concepts of love, death, and time as a coping mechanism, his three most trusted employees Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) conspire to get Howard fired from the organization. As they are aware of the letters that Howard has been writing, Whit, Claire, and Simon collectively decide to hire actors to play the roles of Love, Death, and Time. They hope to paint Howard as insane and in need of psychiatric attention, thereby forcing his removal from the company.

Over the course of the film, Howard interacts with Whit, Claire, and Simon as well as the hired actors that represent Love (Keira Knightly), Death (Helen Mirren), and Time (Jacob Latimore). Tensions mount between the three coworkers as they argue about the best way to go about their end goal of getting Howard removed from the organization. Conflict arises between the actors playing Love, Death, and Time as they disagree on whether or not it is immoral to play the role that they are. And Howard argues with all of them and with himself as he tries to cope with the loss of his child and the potential bankruptcy of his organization. Meanwhile, he also starts attending a recovery group for parents who have lost their children. He clearly has a complicated history with Madeline (Naomie Harris), the leader of the group, a history that is only revealed in full in the last ten minutes of the film.

The final twenty or so minutes of Collateral Beauty are packed with brilliantly intriguing surprises and plot twists. Similar in nature to Inception or anything by Harold Pinter, the end of Collateral Beauty leaves a lot up to the interpretation of the audience in a very interesting and well-executed manner.

Overall, I found the film enjoyable to watch. It is a fantastic concept, but I have to say it was not executed as well as it could have been. The scripting and acting both felt a little halfhearted. While the characters were decent, I feel like they all could have had much more depth than the acting and writing allowed for. As I said, the last twenty to thirty minutes of the movie are absolutely fantastic and overall well executed. However, the film takes too long to build up to that point. The first hour or so of the movie is necessary for the plot, but at times a little boring. I think that is where the movie’s main weakness is. If the pacing of the first hour had been planned out a bit more carefully, the movie as a whole would really shine.  As it is, though, I can’t give the movie a better rating than 6.5 out of 10. The pacing of the majority of the movie drags on a little too slow; the storyline doesn’t go quite deep enough into each of the main characters’ lives; and the scripting and acting just doesn’t quite reach as high as it could have. That said, it was still an enjoyable movie, and I found each of the twists at the end (and there were quite a few) to be brilliant. Watching this movie wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon.