Okay, this movie. Collateral Beauty. I’ve been wanting to see it since I saw the trailer because I thought it sounded really intriguing. And Will Smith is almost always phenomenal. So I was excited. And I just went and saw it. And my excitement has transformed into all these conflicting feelings, mostly because my brain and my heart sometimes like to fight with each other (which is a-okay, in my opinion). Anyway, I’m going to mark all spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this, you can still read my review! And if you haven’t seen it or the trailer yet, watch that now!
Okay, so the movie. Let’s talk about it:
Six Thoughts About Collateral Beauty
Like said, I think the concept is super intriguing.
It’s about a man grieving the death of his daughter. And, to me, that grieving process is so unique to each person going through it, that there is so many ways to explore it. And this concept of talking to abstractions, to Love and Death and Time, to overcome your grief is super interesting. Cheesy, sure, but interesting.
They have some top-notch, A-list actors in there.
Will Smith. Keira Knightley. Kate Winslet. And more that I’m too lazy to look up the names for. This movie is absolutely overflowing with A-list, really talented actors. And I thought they did a great job. Some of the other actors who I’ve never seen before…their acting was questionable at times. Overdone and not quite believable. But those well-known names did a good job.
The movie isn’t what I expected after seeing the trailer.
It’s just not what I expected. I kind of feel like the trailer duped us in a way…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plot twists are good. And it was twisted from the very beginning, but I’m sure the filmmakers and the trailer makers were well aware of that. I think if the trailer had been up front about what was happening, the movie would have been even cheesier. So I kind of like how they set it up, advertised it. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be, going in.
It’s kind of a cynical take on the classic Christmas Carol story.
There isn’t much overt talking about the holidays in the movie, but there are Christmas trees galore and the occasional mention—it’s clearly almost Christmas time. And there are three “ghosts” of Time, Love, and Death that come to Howard. The connections are definitely there. It’s much more cynical than Dickens’ tale, but it’s a unique take on that story.
One of the subplots was just…too Hallmark for me.
I’m from Wisconsin. I like cheese. I like cheesy things. But some of the subplots in this movie were a little too cheesy for me. View Spoiler » Each angel-figure—Love, Death, Time—kind of match up with one of Howard’s friends and coworkers. And each “happen” to “coincidentally” be dealing with that same problem. One is dying. One is running out of time to have a baby. One has a daughter who hates him. « Hide SpoilerThis little subplot was just too perfect and cookie-cutter and predictable. It wasn’t the main premise of the movie, though. But, yeah.
Here comes the conflicted feelings: It’s kind of problematic.
I can’t really discuss this here without spoiling, so I’m sorry! View Spoiler »So the twist that I was talking about before: the three angel-figures the trailer sets up—Love, Death, Time—are actually paid actors that Howard’s coworkers hire to help him get over his daughter. Not just to help him move on, but to help their company. He owns a majority of the shares of their advertising agency, and they need to sell to a company to stay afloat. And they’d consequently make a lot of money. But Howard won’t sign these in his depressive state, so they hire these actors to act like Love, Death, and Time to help him get over it. And to film him while he’s yelling at these characters. And then to edit the videos, to make it look like he was yelling at nobody, to make it look like he’s crazy. So that they can legally say he’s not competent and sane enough to make the decision to sell the company. They gaslight him. But it’s made out to be this heroic thing. And a large part of it is—they’re all friends and they want him to move on and live his life again. But they just brushed off this very problematic thing and never even told Howard the truth. They just make him believe he’s having these hallucinations. At one point, they even bring up the term “gaslighting,” but it’s just shrugged off. I don’t know. It ultimately was very therapeutic for him, but it was just done in a way that is a little problematic. « Hide Spoiler
Overall, I didn’t like this movie as much as I’d hoped. But I still enjoyed it. It felt pretty Hallmark, a feel-good holiday movie, perhaps? But it’s important to acknowledge the possibly problematic aspects of it. There were a couple plot twists, that you might be able to see coming before they’re revealed. I kind of felt like a detective when I realized certain things before we were supposed to. Some of the actors were pretty good, I thought; some…not. But it’s an interesting idea, an intriguing retelling of Dickens’ story. If you go see it, you might like it. Just don’t go in with your expectations that high.