Life’s too short to mince words on this one: Collateral Beauty is a hideously misguided film that aims for awards glory and misses with every emotionally manipulative shot. The basic premise sees the co-workers of a grieving executive named Howard (Will Smith) hiring actors to pretend to be the physical manifestations of Death, Love and Time. They do so because Howard has been writing letters to these abstract concepts in order to get over the loss of his daughter, and because the so-called friends are essentially trying to gaslight him off the board of directors.
Even if you’re willing to give the madcap set-up a go, fooling yourself into thinking that a cast this good can’t have signed up for a project this daft unless the A Christmas Carol-pilfering screenplay was waiting to reveal something halfway decent, you’ll only be rewarded with awful platitudes masquerading as deep meditations on loss, and the film’s terrible title repeated ad nauseam. In fact, the only grace note you’ll find is in wondering what kind of devious extortion happened pre-production, as director David Frankel must have some explosive blackmail material to be able to sign the likes of Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley, who are all completely wasted here. By the time the sucrose double-whammy twist arrives in the last act, you’ll want to scream at the screen for the sheer stupidity screenwriter Allan Loeb has been allowed to showcase. Avoid at all costs.
Collateral Beauty | Directed by David Frankel (USA, 2016) with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren. Starts January 19.
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