Lolli and I saw Collateral Beauty at an early press screening. All thoughts about the movie are my own. This movie review contains no spoilers.
So what is this movie really about and what on earth does “Collateral Beauty” mean? Will Smith, who plays Howard, a successful advertising executive, is dealing with a family tragedy.
When Howard’s supportive friends and business partners Whit (Edward Norton – Birdman, The Bourne Legacy, The Incredible Hulk), Claire (Kate Winslet – Divergent, The Reader, Titanic) and Simon (Michael Pena – The Martian, American Hustle and World Trade Center) try to intervene to help Howard and save their failing business, they each get a little more than expected.
As a way of dealing with his pain, Howard begins writing letters – to “Death”, “Time” and “Love” – to express the feelings he doesn’t want to share with anybody. When Death (Helen Mirren – The Hundred-Foot Journey), Time (Jacob Latimore – The Maze Runner) and Love (Keira Knightley – oh, any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) mysteriously begin showing up in his life, Howard starts to question his sanity. Now, before you place any wagers on what you think the movie is or isn’t, let me just say that there were a number of unexpected twists that really made the movie meaningful to me.
I hate spoilers, so I won’t give you any. I will just say that there are some things that happen – interactions between characters – that seem a little…”pushy,” shall we say. And until you see the end from the beginning, it makes you question their validity.
I have 5 children and I have been blessed to see them safe and healthy all of their lives. In Collateral Beauty, Howard (Will Smith) is reeling from the death of his daughter. This is a theme and storyline that many writers have tackled in their own way.
After the movie, Lolli and I talked about how parents who have lost a child might feel watching this movie. How did they cope with losing a child? How would they feel about this Hollywood portrayal of a parent who disengages from life and can’t find a way back to normalcy?
If you’re like me, you’ll feel that they didn’t give quite enough time to the character development needed to make Howard’s situation fully grab you. I like to know the full story, so when you give me just a little bit, I get anxious. However, I think they did this so that you would take notice of the other characters and their plights. Although Howard is writing letters to Death, Time and Love, he is not the only one who has a need for esoteric communications with the aforementioned pseudo-apparitions.
This is not a movie that avoids yanking at your heartstrings or emotions. It is sad at times, but filled with countless laughs. The whole part about apparitions telling you that “you are the only one who can see me” gets a whole new level of comedy in this one. You’ll be quoting it for a few days afterwards.
Back to my original question – what is “Collateral Beauty?” Well, I know what “collateral damage” is. When you make a triple batch of peanut butter cookies and forget to put the salt or eggs in the batter, you not only get bad cookies, but you have wasted all of the ingredients that were used in your triple batch. When everybody is mad at you for using the last of the vanilla or baking soda, that is my understanding of collateral damage.
Collateral Beauty is the many, perhaps, millions of moments and good things that happen to us along the path of our lives. Some of these things only become apparent when something tragic takes center stage. When we reel from something for an overly long time, the dust should settle and give us a better view of all that is NOT wrong in our lives. No matter the scope of the tragedy, at the end of the day, there are so many things right in our lives.
For Howard, he realizes all that his friends have done for him over an extended period of time, not just the support they provided during his tragedy. There is a profound collateral beauty in the sacrifices and inconveniences we make for others. We just don’t see if very often.
I have to say that I am a big Will Smith fan. I have seen many of his movies and think he is one of the best actors in Hollywood. The cast was great in this movie and I think you’ll enjoy it. The movie is rated PG-13, and I would recommend this as a movie for adults to enjoy. The subject matter and occasional strong language might be a little much for kids.
In theaters December 16
Rated: PG-13 for “thematic elements and brief strong language.”
Run time: 94 mins
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