From the Archives: Collateral Beauty review

From the Archives: Collateral Beauty review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Collateral Beauty is fascinating in its badness. From top to bottom, front to back, every single thing about it is completely bonkers, and not in a fun, festive way. More in a tragic, “I can’t believe all of these tremendous actors are doing this willingly” kind of way. It’s as if feels the director has a gun pointed at the cast and just keeps yelling “CUT! Let’s try it again, but do it worse this time!” “Cut! WORSE!”

“Cut! WORSER!”

“Perfect! That was terrible! The WORST! Mark it! Print it!”

And this just keeps happening until the worst movie is made.

This isn’t limited to the production either. I imagine a screenwriter sitting at a desk thinking “Hmmmm, this is bad, but how can I make it worse? Ooooh! I’ll add cruelty, stupidity, and dishonesty, but I’ll dress it up as a cheery romp! FOR CHRISTMAS!” After a series of reverse-revisions, the script for Collateral Beauty was born.

It was then shopped around Hollywood until it reached a producer sitting behind a stack of decent scripts. “These were all pretty decent,” he says “but I’m looking for something worse.” And like a gift from some cruel version of God, Collateral Beauty found its way to the inbox.

Elsewhere, Will Smith sits in his palatial mansion, writing “Oscar?” in the fog of his bay windows. Sorry buddy, but not this year. Not until you fire your agent. Mr. Smith smears his writing and places his forehead against the glass in shame.

He thinks to himself, “what happened to me?”

His son, Jaden, chases the red dot of Willow’s laser pointer until he runs into a wall. Papa Smith, going through the motions at this point, heads to the kitchen for an icepack.


Why should he fire his agent? Because in Collateral Beauty he plays a terrible person who uses his grief as an excuse to be terrible to his friends and business partners. You see, after his young daughter dies from a horrific disease, he spends his days building elaborate domino sculptures in his office and neglecting his work duties – neglecting to even speak with anyone at all. He doesn’t even stick around to watch the dominoes fall, which is supposed to tell us he’s deep or something. He literally tips the first domino and then leaves. Ugh. His nights are spent riding his bicycle into traffic while crying. Once again this is supposed to show us how deep he is, but all it really says is that he has no regard for the safety of others and that Will Smith desperately wants an Oscar.

His friends and business partners, played by Michael Peña, Kate Winslet, and Edward Norton are all very worried, both about their friend’s mental state, and the fact that he’s letting their company go under. Unfortunately for them, he has a controlling interest in the company, so their hands are tied. Fortunately for them, they get word that Will Smith (I don’t care to look up the character name) has been writing angry letters to the concepts of Love, Death, and Time, because he’s definitely mentally ill, and is probably an emo kid. This leads his friends to a perfect (see: inhumanly cruel) plan: hire actors to confront Will Smith as Love, Death, and Time incarnate, record his conversations with them, digitally erase the actors from the footage, and then use the doctored footage to prove to the other shareholders that he’s crazy, thus ousting him from the company. I’m not kidding. This is what the film is about.

It gets better (worse).

As it turns out, each of his business partners is thematically linked to Love, Death, and Time. Edward Norton is in hot water with his family after having cheated on his wife. He spends a lot of time with Love (Keira Knightly). Michael Peña is dying from a terminal illness and hasn’t told his family about it. He spends a lot of time with Death (Helen Mirren). Kate Winslet desperately wants a child, as noted by two scenes in which she sadly side-eyes sperm donor pamphlets. She spends a lot of time with, well, Time (Jacob Latimore). Get it? Get it?⁈ DO YOU GET IT?⁈

Will Smith seems to be affected by his encounters with Love, Death, and Time – ya know, the way a legitimately mentally ill person would be if their strange reality became real – and his new found “depth” allows him to begin a “romance” with the head of a grief support group. Believe me when I say that it’s all very, very stupid.

Honestly though, I’m mostly hung up on the domino thing. The BEST part of setting up dominoes is watching them fall. There are NO domino videos on the internet which feature the set-up process unless it’s in fast motion, and everybody skips that part anyway. Will Smith sets up the dominos and then leaves as they fall. This is just wrong. I hate it. Even worse, someone else at his office presumably cleans it all up.

You know what? I’m getting charged up just writing about the domino thing. I’m gonna go take a shower and come back.

Ok I’m back.

Collateral Beauty gets crazier, but to reveal to two monstrous and unearned “twists” would be to ruin any amount of fun you could possibly have with this movie. So in the spirit of saving you money and delivering the fun anyway. I’m going to go ahead and spoil the two twists after the text break.

Here goes.

Don’t read any further if you don’t want to read the insanely stupid spoilers.

1. It turns out Love, Death, and Time aren’t actors at all. THEY REALLY ARE LOVE, DEATH, AND TIME! ::confused Tim Allen grunt::

2. The support group leader is actually Will Smith’s ex-wife. They’re grieving over the same child! And for some unexplained and stupid reason they’ve just been pretending not to know each other this whole time! IT’S SO SO SO SO SO SO STUPID OH MY GOD I HATE THIS MOVIE.

Spoilers over.

You probably don’t believe me. Well, what can I say? Go see it? No. I won’t say that.

Anywho, no Oscars for Mr. Smith this year. On the bright side, they say the term “Collateral Beauty” six times, which has to be some sort of titular reference record.

Happy Holidays!

Collatoral Beauty opens in Philly theaters today.

Official site.

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