Collateral Beauty Movie Review

David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty starts with a pretentious name and goes downhill from there. It’s a film dealing with weighty subjects in a manner that is borderline offensive and cheats the audience and its talented actors of quality. When you can’t get past an incredibly contrived concept, it makes any semblance of emotional resonance that the screenplay is trying to beat into you fail badly. And it does.

Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising exec who’s mourning the loss of his young daughter. He can’t get past the loss and he’s cut off communication with the world, including his coworkers. There’s three of them that are focused on and they’re all given their own soap opera subplots. Whit (Edward Norton) is a divorcee trying to reconnect with his own little girl. Claire (Kate Winslet) is the workaholic wanting to become a mother. Simon (Michael Pena) is terminally ill and trying to hide his diagnosis from everyone.

The trio make the tough decision to try to push Howard out of the company. In order to do so, the script invents quite a remarkably ridiculous way to do so. You see – Howard writes letters to issues he’s grappling with – Love, Death, Time. When his coworkers are at their wit’s end, they make the puzzling decision to hire an acting troupe to portray those emotions, catch Howard’s reaction to them on camera, and exploit his response for the company’s gain. It’s even more contrived than it sounds. So we have Helen Mirren as Death, Keira Knightley as Love, and Jacob Latimore as Time. Howard also reaches out to a grief counselor (Naomie Harris) who’s experienced similar life issues.

This is the type of picture that some may not want to criticize due to its subject matter. Yet Collateral Beauty deserves scorn, especially because so many other films have dealt with similar themes in far more mature and satisfying ways. There’s not a performance here worthy of praise and that’s remarkable considering the cast. Smith is stuck playing one note throughout and even Mirren (one of our finest actresses) is annoying. No actors could make this dialogue work to be fair. It’s as if screenwriter Allan Loeb took a bunch of sympathy and encouragement cards and self-help manuals, cut them up, threw them in the air, and let treacly word piles form. The result is ugly.

* (out of four)

 

Oscar Watch: Collateral Beauty

OK – stop rolling your eyes. When Collateral Beauty (out Friday) had its trailers unveiled months ago, it was not out of the question that the film could receive some awards chatter. After all, the cast is made up of multiple Oscar winners and nominees – Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley. Maybe its director David Frankel (who’s had some hits with The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) would enter a new phase of his career that included Academy attention.

So it wasn’t unreasonable to include the Picture, the Lead Actor with Mr. Smith, and supporting players like Norton and Mirren in the realm of possibility for nominations. Yet there was also a general feeling from the trailers that perhaps it was trying a bit too hard. Reviews out today seem to confirm that notion. Bottom line? Collateral Beauty won’t get any Oscar nods.

Interestingly, a number of critical write-ups have called it the Hollywood version of Manchester by the Sea, which also deals with the heavy issue of losing a child. Those reviews haven’t exactly meant it as a compliment. While Manchester is poised for many nominations (including Picture), Beauty‘s best hope now is to connect with audiences. At least its costar Naomie Harris looks certain to be recognized, but it’ll be for Moonlight and not this.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Collateral Beauty Box Office Prediction

After headlining the summer comic book hit Suicide Squad, Will Smith switches to drama mode in the holiday season with Collateral Beauty. Out next weekend, the pic casts the Fresh Prince as a father who loses his child and begins writing letters to events and feelings such as Love, Death, and Time. It turns out those things are embodied by real people and some of them are famous actors. Costars include Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, and Michael Pena. David Frankel, who’s had his hits (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and misses (The Big Year anyone?), directs.

The trailers for Beauty leave no doubt that this aims to be a tearjerker appealing to an adult (and probably more female) crowd. Word of mouth could cause this to play well throughout the Christmas season. For its opening, I don’t anticipate anything higher than to low to possibly mid teens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is opening against it and I think it’s a rather safe bet it will dominate the charts and possibly siphon away some of the females Beauty is looking to attract.

Though they are certainly not apples to apples comparisons, I could actually see this performing similarly to last year’s Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. That pic also opened against the Star Wars franchise (in the form of The Force Awakens) at $13.9 million and subsequently managed to perform admirably from weekend to weekend. I’ll predict this falls a couple million under that.

Collateral Beauty opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/06/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-box-office-prediction/

2016 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Director

Day 5 of my early 2016 Oscar predictions continues with Best Director and this week has already helped solidify the standings of two: Damien Chazelle for La La Land (who looks like a shoo-in for a nod) and Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals (not guaranteed; but very good chance).

Then there’s Martin Scorsese for Silence. The legendary director has been nominated 8 times for this award, including for five of his last six pictures (winning for 2006’s The Departed). It’s a safe pick to put him in, but the only uncertainty is whether or not Silence is actually released this year.

Ang Lee has won the award twice (for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi) and his Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk looks poised for several nominations.

There are many other possibilities: Denzel Washington could land his first directorial attention for Fences. Jeff Nichols’ Loving has already been the subject of much acclaim. Both Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) could find themselves in the mix, as could Denis Villenueve (Arrival) and Morten Tyldum (Passengers) for their science fiction pics.

Also worth noting: Nate Parker for The Birth of a Nation. This is a tricky one as the movie has been a critical hit yet prevalent stories on his past have called into question whether the Academy will make that a factor. We shall see.

Here’s how I have the race right now:

TODD’S EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS – BEST DIRECTOR

Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals

Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Martin Scorsese, Silence

Denzel Washington, Fences

Other Possibilities:

Ben Affleck, Live by Night

Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply

Garth Davis, Lion

Ana DuVernay, The 13th

Clint Eastwood, Sully

Gareth Edwards, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

David Frankel, Collateral Beauty

Stephen Gaghan, Gold

John Lee Hancock, The Founder

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Ken Loach, I, Daniel Blake

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water

John Madden, Miss Sloane

Ewan McGregor, American Pastoral

Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures

Mike Mills, 20th Century Women

Jeff Nichols, Loving

Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation

Rob Reiner, LBJ

Tate Taylor, The Girl on the Train

Morten Tyldum, Passengers

Denis Villenueve, Arrival

Ben Younger, Bleed for This

Robert Zemeckis, Allied

Best Picture tomorrow!