Will Smith has had a very interesting career so far. He is absolutely a beloved actor, audiences love him, but he has had his share of controversial roles, blockbuster hits and massive bombs. His latest film, Collateral Beauty, was hit with a ton of negative publicity when some advance screenings (and I am sure one or two people who only read a synopsis and didn’t see it) didn’t go well. I was even wary when I heard what the movie entailed; it seemed to be diametrically opposed to what the movie seemed to be in the marketing campaign. The trailers hinted at a life affirming spiritual drama about the wonders of life. But is that what you get?
Howard (Will Smith) is a partner in a large and very successful New York advertising firm who seems to have it all. But when he is struck with a very personal tragedy, he retreats from life. His concerned friends and partners Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) don’t know what to do with their company and their futures in danger from Howard’s withdrawal. They devise a plan to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death (Keira Knightly, Jacob Latimore and Helen Mirren) and to respond in person to therapeutic letter’s Howard had written. But will Howard believe them? Or will he just go mad in his grief?
While I don’t think Collateral Beauty deserved to fail before it had a chance, I will say the studio did the movie a great disservice with its marketing campaign. It is definitely no the movie the trailers led you to believe it is. In fact, it might have ended up being more than that. Yes it had characters that act shamefully for their own self-interests at some points but you have to see the whole story to get what was going on. I thought the depiction of all of the characters in such a unique situation were actually quite realistic. Smith is great as usual and truly plays Howard as a broken man. I felt great empathy for him and found him extremely relatable in terms of my own fears and concerns in life over family. And Mirren, Knightly and Latimore do great jobs as the actors as well; their job is an interesting one in that they have to perform the roles of their lives in Howard’s reality instead of for an audience. Don’t let Collateral Beauty’s failure at the box office keep you from checking out this interesting drama. Recommended.