Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

The reviews were less than promising. And the Rotten Tomatoes score dropped from 24 percent to 14 percent in less than one week. But I was determined to see this new Christmas movie with an other-worldly twist and a host of A-list actors.

Will Smith stars as grief-stricken Howard Inlet, the owner of a Manhattan ad agency, who spends his time building intricate structures out of dominos, writing poison pen letters to Love, Time, and Death, and bicycling madly through the streets of New York. Unable to even speak of his six-year-old daughter’s death, Howard retreats further and further from reality, jeopardizing the financial futures of his company and minority partners: Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña).

Desperate to seize control and prevent catastrophe, the partners hire three struggling actors to personify Death (Helen Mirren), Love (Kiera Knightly), and Time (Jacob Latimore) and gaslight Howard while an unscrupulous investigator records the interactions and doctors the footage. I enjoyed watching all these “entities” in action…my favorite was Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Death.

Taken aback by these personal replies from the universe, Howard begins to doubt his sanity and seeks solace in a support group headed by Madeleine (Naomie Harris).

The three partners share their own issues with the actors, acquiring new insights as the film reaches its climax.

While watching, I was able to suspend my own ideas about what usually happens when angels and wannabe angels don’t magically appear and set everyone on the right path. And that is the allure of inspirational fables such as Collateral Beauty.

As to the definition of collateral beauty…it wasn’t made very clear in the film. This is my interpretation:

Our deepest losses can bring us to our knees and endanger our peace of mind. But those losses can also reveal moments (sometimes micro-moments) of beauty and laughter. When those fleeting moments appear, we must acknowledge them.

8 responses to “Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

  1. Great review thank you. However, I believe that Collateral Beauty is the most misread and unfairly condemned film of last year. It is a lyrical essay on grief psychosis that uses magical realism to frame its premise. It has a complex narrative structure and some other issues, but it is a gut-wrenching story that if staged in 17th century costumes would have been seen as a universal fable of Shakespearean proportions.

  2. Great definition and review!
    I watched Rogue One yesterday—high action/hope inspired inspiration (loved it)— so a slower paced movie will be a nice one to see:)

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