First Hit: Wonderful concept, wonderful cast, mediocre execution.
The idea that someone could talk with Love, Time and Death is interesting. Having a cast with Will Smith (as Howard), Edward Norton (as Whit), Kate Winslet (as Claire), Michael Pena (as Simon), Helen Mirren (as Brigitte and Death), Keira Knightly (as Amy and Love), Jacob Latimore (as Raffi and Time), and Naomie Harris (as Madeleine) all in one film is amazing. However, there was something about the script and way it was directed that had this film fall short of its potential.
The title “Collateral Beauty” was also at fault in some ways. Normally when we hear the word “collateral” we hear it with the word “damage”. This term is used in the movie as a lesson or mantra that Madeleine hears after the loss of her child. When she was in the hospital, just prior to her daughter’s death, an old woman sitting next to her outside her dying child’s room said, do not be so taken by grief that you forget to see the collateral beauty. The movie does nothing to really show what this means.
The focus of the film is that Howard, who is a brilliant advertising creative executive, loses his young 6-year old daughter to a disease. The company he’s built with Whit, Claire and Simon begins to suffer and is now losing clients because of his disengagement with work. He spends his days building domino trails then knocking them down, or riding his bike at night through the streets of New York City. To save their company and investments Whit, Claire and Simon arrange to have Amy, Raffi and Brigitte pretend to be Love, Time and Death respectively in hopes of communicating with Howard to bring him out of his deep sorrow.
Although this is done with some seriousness, the constructs and building of the story is weak. When the words and concept of "Collateral Beauty" are passed from Madeleine to Howard, the failure to engage the audience and Howard are palpable. It is at this point I realized that this film, regardless of how it finishes, would be lack luster.
Smith was OK as the once engaging advertising company creator, leader and grieving father. Norton was slightly better as Howard’s business partner. Winslet was fine as the morally caring business partner. Pena was very good as the ill business executive who cares about his family. Knightly was good as Love. Mirren was very good as Death, her style brought strength to the film. Latimore was strong as Time. Harris was very strong as the grieving mother. Allan Loeb wrote a weak screenplay in that the characters lacked depth and the story never grew. Direction by David Frankel was weak in that he never saw the failings of the story to find ways to make it have more depth. The film never really shared the beauty of a child’s depth which, in this case, was supposed to be collateral.
Overall: Although somewhat engaging at the beginning, it fails to fulfill any beauty collateral or not.