What was the last movie that you watched that didn’t live up to the trailer? Unfortunately this is becoming a more frequent occurrence as studios are perfecting the art of creating movie trailers. In fact, WB is so good at cutting trailers that when the studio executives saw an early cut of Suicide Squad, they panicked because the movie had such little resemblance to the trailer to the point that they forced them to do really extensive reshoots.
I have the regrettable duty of telling you that Collateral Beauty doesn’t live up to its trailer. At times it’s deeply moving, as the trailer promised, but its problems are so numerous that I couldn’t overlook them enough to be satisfied with the film.
Collateral Beauty is the story of a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) who suffers a great tragedy which leads him to retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
I am simply baffled by how much acting talent is in this movie. And even more bemused as to how there are so many lackluster performances by AMAZING actors. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I saw so many Oscar nominees/winners together in a single movie; Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kiera Knightly, Helen Mirren, and Kate Winslet all show up. Whoever talked all of these big names to be in such an uneven film deserves an award. How that person hoodwinked so much talent into being in such a problematic project we will never know.
Will Smith is the only really solid performance in the film. The rest of roles felt like they were written and acted for a student film. Sometimes I wonder how bad a director has to be in order to get such terrible performances out of great actors. This is one of those times.
The film’s script is terribly uneven. It is a very intriguing concept and mostly delivers on its premise, however the ‘in-between’ scenes are just awful. The exposition delivered by Norton and Winslet is so on the nose that it took me out of the film from the beginning. Also, the film’s ending is really confusing and tries to be smarter than it is. There are several twists that just flat out didn’t work and detracted from what the movie was trying to say. To say that this is failed ‘Oscar-bait’ is an understatement.
The film’s score is pretty decent. The composer, Theodore Shapiro, mostly does comedies, with the exception of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Saint Vincent, which both had great scores. The music did its job in adding to the storytelling the right amount of emotion.
Overall, I didn’t like Collateral Beauty, despite being moved a few times during the screening. Its wooden delivery of an uneven script by wasted talent was too much for me to focus on the beauty of Beauty. However, the audience I screened the movie with really seemed to enjoy themselves: there was a lot of crying and laughing and they couldn’t wait to clap at the end (no really, there were some premature applause). So maybe I’m just being snobbish in my critique of the film.