Collateral Beauty was pitched to audiences as a film where Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is struggling to cope with the death of his daughter, he writes letters to time, love, and death. He is then visited by these three concepts in the form of Jacob Latimore, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren.
The film we got isn’t quite that. Instead a large portion of the film focuses on his three business partners, Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña). Without Howard the company is struggling. So early on in the film they hire three actors to play the parts of time, love, and death, so as to try and prove that Howard is mentally unfit to use his shares, so that they are able to sell their company. It is a film that is about horribly conceited and selfish people, and sort of knows it is, but acts like it isn’t. Honestly the fact that they were trying to make an incredibly poignant film about characters doing something so unlikable would be the most ridiculous thing about the film, if it weren’t for the writing.
I don’t think that there has been a more horribly pompous and laughably bad script in any film I’ve seen this year. It thinks that the dialogue it’s characters are having is something so incredibly profound, whereas in actually fact it’s such nonsense that no reasonable person would ever say, and that it was almost laughable having to listen to it. Sadly I cannot remember most of the dialogue that they managed to spew onto the page, but it was hard to get through, and clearly hard for most of the actors to give any real gravitas to.
The film is chock full of acting talent, and whilst I didn’t think most of them were bad, over the top sure but not bad, the only actor who gave what I would say was a genuinely good performance was Will Smith. It’s probably helped by the fact that his character doesn’t have too much to say for most of the film, and spends a lot of time calling out other characters for spouting ridiculous nonsense. And even though it’s a decent performance from Smith it’s not what you want to see from him. I’ve never been a great fan of his attempts at serious moving drama; you lose what makes Smith so great, his magnetism and charm.
Honestly it’s a shame that I had written my list for worst films of the year before I saw Collateral Beauty, because it would definitely be warranting a place on that list. The trailers completely missold the film to audiences, as the film is actually about three business people conning their grieving partner out of his share in the company, all whilst spouting pretentious nonsense. No thank you.