Collateral Beauty full movie review - "Collateral Beauty" is Beautiful
"Collateral Beauty" is flawed, beautiful, and amazing. In the opening scene, Will Smith as Howard, CEO of his New York advertising agency, is movie star Will?handsome, fit, and charismatic.
He asks his employees, "What is your why?" He iterates, "Love. Time. Death." We all want love. We don't have enough time. And we all fear death. Three years later, the swag is gone. Howard has aged more than President Obama in his first term. He has lost his "why"? his purpose. His 6 year-old daughter died from a rare form of cancer, his wife has left, and he is virtually catatonic. He wanders the office creating expansive domino constructs. Howard is angry at the universe, but finds his screams don't even generate an echo. To survive he buries his anger to numb the pain. He gets so angry at the universe that he writes letters to Love, Time, and Death. Then surprisingly, they respond back.
This is the touching and inspired fable of Director David Frankel's ("The Devil Wears Prada") "Collateral Beauty". Writer Allan Loeb's story is ambitious, daring ideas that matter?love, time, death, and forgiveness. I think initially Loeb's story seems capriciously mechanical, canny, and manipulative. On the surface reprehensible narrative elements emerge which in retrospect are necessary albeit clumsily executed. Loeb's domino metaphor poetically captures Howard's past becoming his present and future. But does this have to be so?
"Collateral Beauty" is blessed with Will Smith and Helen Mirren, who are awesome. Will Smith acts his ass off. I read that he dealt with his own father's passing while making the movie. His performance is fearless and raw. Helen Mirren plays "Death" and is mesmerizing. When she knowingly closes her eyes with Simon (Michael Pena), I got the movie. Helen and Will possess poignant screen partnership. On the emotional subway ride Howard unloads on Death from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to "Life is, but a dream." Mirren is silently still, and listens. Smith and Mirren are sublime. "Collateral Beauty" is about the compassion to listen to another's soul.
I read numerous published movie reviews outraged by the movie for being emotionally played. Yeah, if being played moves and inspires, then I am okay with that. I think with "Collateral Beauty" you may want to watch and listen with your soul. Frankel and Loeb share great ideas intended to be gotten, not so much analyzed or understood. They even cop to this. Howard (Smith) dismisses grief counselor Madeleine's (Naomie Harris) epiphany of "collateral beauty" as utter bulls**t. Initially, we do as well. Perhaps "collateral beauty" is like cosmic propinquity?a connection to the universe that transcends love, time, and death. Collateral beauty begins to resonate.
Howard's debilitating despondence jeopardizes his once thriving company. Howard's best friend and co-founder Whit (Edward Norton) informs Howard of a lucrative buyout deal. He doesn't care, but has 60% interest in the company. Howard's other loyal friends Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) are equally concerned about their livelihood. In a repugnant turn all three conspire against Howard, disguised as helping him. Whit uses the private investigator his ex- wife employed to uncover his own infidelity to discern Howard's weakness. Sally (callous Ann Dowd) 'steals' the letters Howard wrote to Love, Time, and Death.
Whit devises a plan to hire actors to play Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Death (Helen Mirren) with the rules that only Howard can see them. So Love is a beautiful young woman; Time is a young African American hipster; Death is an old white woman in blue. The actors confront Howard in public while being filmed, with their digital images removed in post editing. This will either therapeutically cure Howard or bury him in a corporate competency clause. Supposed loyal friends turn ruthless. Claire objects, but not vehemently enough.
Who precisely is being played? Frankel and Loeb's narrative synchronicity kicks in. Whit is estranged from his daughter Allison (unintentionally unlikeable Kylie Rogers), and wants desperately back in her life. He is paired with Love. Claire forfeited motherhood for the company; now anguishes over the cost. She is paired with Time. Simon, who has the telltale cough, hides a secret from his family. He is paired with Death. Self aware Howard befriends Madeleine (Harris), who leads a grief counseling group for parents who suffered their child passing. Howard confesses, "I'm trying to fix my mind." This storyline authentically grounds "Collateral Beauty". The movie powerfully deals with loss, gracious acceptance, and promise.
Performances transform "Collateral Beauty". Forgive some the awkward melodrama for the greater cause. Norton is so vulnerable when tells Love about his daughter's birth. Pena surprises in his predictable role, particularly with Mirren's Death. Knightley's tearful visage illuminates when Howard tells Love, "You broke my heart!" Winslet's gravitas overcomes the sketchy Claire character, especially in her relationship to Time. Latimore holds his own as Howard lashes out about his daughter.
Smith and Mirren awe us. Mirren's profound passion and compassion guide the path. Her unsaid is magic. Smith gives "Collateral Beauty" its heart. He effortlessly balances levity and power. I think his listlessness covers the hurt in Howard's soul. He is hysterical when Love interrupts his dinner. I cried in the board room scene where Smith is unconditional love and forgiveness. We are so for Smith as his Howard courageously makes his way back into life. I did not understand all the narrative twists for Howard, and I got them.
"Collateral Beauty" is perhaps the worst critically reviewed movie of the year. So I really don't know anything. I loved it and was moved. Maybe watch and listen to "Collateral Beauty" with your soul. Allow Smith and Mirren to take you on a miraculous journey. What is your why? "Collateral Beauty" is messy, yet wonderful and wondrous.