Will Smith’s career has started to take a downward turn. Known for his charismatic persona and likability, Smith has been picking some odd roles over the past few years. From being a monotone father in After Earth to even playing a version of the devil in Winter’s Tale, his choice of roles has been questionable to say the least.
With that being the case, Smith is trying to get his credibility back with Collateral Beauty, aka his latest push for a much-coveted Oscar. The film follows Howard, a man who has turned on life after the death of his young daughter. After writing letters to life, death, and time, he soon begins to receive answers for his letters.
Positioning itself in the heat of Awards Season, Collateral Beauty is one of the most notable failures of the year. Lacking any genuine moments and featuring some baffling twists, this is one of the year’s worst films.
If I had to give the movie any positives, the whole affair does have a professional look to it. Not only does the movie have an all-star cast, but its also shot incredibly well. Cinematographer Maryse Alberti (known for her work on Creed) does a good job of capturing the city of New York, as well as the emotional restraint of these characters.
Aside from that, Collateral Beauty is a confounding train wreck. The nugget of an idea here is promising, and I expected something kind of fantasy based but emotionally realistic from the marketing. What the marketing doesn’t tell you that is revealed in the first ten minutes is that Howard’s interactions with Love, Death, and Time are actually pre-arranged, with his friends hiring actors to play the roles to prove Howard’s instability.
The fact that a screenwriter thought that would be an understandable way to develop the film is just dumbfounding. Making the choice to mess with their friends psyche just feels incredibly mean-spirited, and instantly gives the audience an icky feeling. They try to re-assure themselves its the best for everyone, but it just always feels wrong.
From start to finish, Allan Loeb’s script may just be the worst screenplay of recent memory. Not only does it feature a constant mean-streak throughout, but every moment of the film feels disconnected from reality. All of the dialogue is either the most contrived banter ever or hilariously bad fortune cookie insight. Every time the film tries to hit a genuine emotional beat, it falls flat on its face.
Perhaps the weirdest part of this movie is just how many great actors give mediocre performances. Will Smith spends his surprisingly limited amount of running time just frowning, not getting the complexity of his grief. Edward Norton is one of my favorite actors, but he is incredibly unlikable here. Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris, and Keira Knightley all have very little to do, and are apart of a talented cast that is just wasted.
Collateral Beauty fails most when its trying to surprise its audience. The third act especially takes a few notable twist and turns, and these twists all either easily predictable or make no sense. There is one twist in particular that makes no sense whatsoever and contradicts most of what happens beforehand.
Failing at almost everything it tries, Collateral Beauty is a fascinating failure, one that wastes an extremely talented ensemble cast.