Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Collateral Beauty is the latest Will Smith vehicle, this time directed by The Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel. The film is about a guy who is a major player at an advertising agency dealing with the death of his daughter. For risk of spoilers, I cannot say more. The film stars Will Smith, of course, as well as Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren. Overall, I thought the film was ok. It surprised me from the outset but did a few things near the end that spoiled much of the enjoyment I did get from the film.

On the positive side of things, I was definitely interested in the characters in the film and I did care about their problems. Smith, Norton, Winslet, Peña, and Harris all play characters who have something weighty going on in their lives and they almost universally got me to care about the issues they had going on which was fairly impressive. I also found Jacob Latimore incredibly magnetic in his scenes.

I also really enjoyed the way this film looked and the visual cues it throws you throughout the film. It really makes a lot of mundane things look very clean and attractive and I really enjoyed looking at this film. I also found that its short runtime and good pace kept me involved in what was going on and even with some heavy content it never became too dour.

The problems with this film are somewhat hard to discuss. It makes a choice early on and does something with that choice later in the film that kind of wrecked some good will the film had built with me. The film also thinks it is much more clever than it really is. There is another plot related thing I can’t really say and it unfolds in a way that was both unbelievable and inherently obvious. That really just felt obnoxious and much like it was trying too hard.

Sort of on the topic of the film thinking it is more clever than it is, this film feels very “wrote” and manufactured. It has a lot of humanity and, honestly, a lot of heart. But it lacks soul. It lacks realism. It lacks human flaws. There are so many convenient parallels in this story and it moves in ways that make you notice that the film is written by someone and not a story that happened and is being told. Obviously it is a work of fiction, as are many things, but the sign of a great film is the ability to step back and see a storyteller weave together something that you buy into even though you know it’s fake. I didn’t get that sense from Collateral Beauty at all and that is probably the most criminal thing about the film.

Overall, I found Collateral Beauty to be a lot better than the train wreck I was expecting. It did some interesting things, it looked good, and it kept moving forward with everything. The actors also made me care about them. That said, it really tries too hard and felt fake. It also makes a choice toward the end that ruined some good faith with a choice it made early on.

Ryan’s Score: 6.5/10

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