Warner Bros. 97 minutes PG-13
If you’re looking for an uplifting holiday movie, this isn’t it. It’s an emotional heart tugger that is sappy, depressing and somewhat predictable. But it is loaded with great actors in fabulous settings.
Will Smith and Edward Norton are partners in a slick New York Advertising Agency that is going downhill because Howard (Will Smith) has had some serious tragedy and has literally checked out. All he does is come to work and build incredibly elaborate domino structures.
Whit, (Edward Norton), is concerned for his friend’s survival and for survival of the agency which is starting to lose accounts because of Howard’s inactivity. Norton seemed a little awkward in this role and could have shown more emotion.
Kate Winslet and Michael Peña play Claire and Simon who are also principles at the firm concerned for the same reasons. They all have their own personal issues. Claire doesn’t know if she’ll ever have a child of her own, Simon is dying and Whit is divorced trying to navigate a bad relationship with his own young daughter.
They decide to have Howard followed to see what’s up by a private investigator (Ann Dowd) who discovers he’s been writing letters to Love Time and Death. He is devastated and mentally paralyzed after losing his 6 year old daughter. He goes to a therapy group but doesn’t want to interact despite the leader’s (Naomie Harris in a very different role than Moonlight) attempts to gently encourage him to get involved. She’s experienced the same tragedy. Could it be the same child?
Whit hires actors rehearsing a play near the agency to play Love, Time and Death to engage Howard in conversation to see if they can help. get him out of his funk. Mirren is the standout as Death and said she was determined to make her character not morbid or scary, but fun dressed in fluffy, bright blue feathers.
Keira Knightly plays Love talking to Howard about it’s meaning, and Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner, Ride Along) plays Time trying to get Howard to think of time in a more positive light. This is the first time Knightly and Harris have worked together since Pirates of the Caribbean.
Director David Frankel and Writer Allan Loeb tried hard to make the film work. Smith says the purpose is to show the humanity of people trying to help each other and how they help themselves in the process. But there are times when we skip a beat and there seems to be a scene missing here and there which would tied this together better. This is more of a Lifetime or Hallmark TV like production. It is beautifully shot. The agency used as the set in the movie is Widen Kennedy in New York City. We’d love to work in an office like this. It has a great bi-level layout perfect for the huge domino displays which are better than this story.
Collateral beauty is supposed to mean that something unintentionally good can come from tragedy. This film has cast of A-list actors and even though there is a resolution, the collateral here is not an uplifting holiday experience.