Losing a child is possibly one of the worst things imaginable. The thought of it is shaking. So, who better to act out these emotions on screen than the talented Will Smith? Not too many actors can compete with his range, even though this film has a diverse cast. If you were thinking Oscar worthy, you wouldn’t be far from reality. The question is for what category? It’s a safe bet to put your money on Smith’s performance, but other than that you may be risking it. While his work on screen was great, it came extremely late and in an unnecessary set of plot arcs that clouded the story.
A few years in the past, Howard (Will Smith) was the light of the room. He owned it with every ounce of his body, with confidence and wisdom. Then after his life was flipped upside down that all went away. He turned into a meticulous savant, living in a world of his own just making due. The best thing director David Frankel (Marley & Me, The Devil Wears Prada) captured early on was the daunting plague called life that plagued Howard daily. The score mixed in with the camera work to set the atmosphere was poetic, but then got lost with characters who were decent but not the reason you came to the theater. From the outside, the film marketed itself as focusing on Smith’s character. While it did towards the end, it took too long of a detour catering to everyone else but him.
Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena are all at the top of their game with their skills, and their performances here were adequate; but their particular roles were not. Their involvement created a rift in the direction of the narrative, that is a falsehood of what you were told you were seeing. Besides everything being focused on them too long, their characters aren’t any you can respect. While they had the right intentions, there was still a form of malice that they possessed. They did, however, try to clean it up later. This film isn’t what you expect it to be, which brings on an uncomfortable feeling. Though of course you would imagine it to leave you feeling uncomfortable, given the material used to sell the film includes the death of a child. Their roles aren’t completely wasted, as they have to learn lessons about life to carry on, just like Howard. They learned lessons, but it was hard to care.
As you probably already know, love, death, and time are the three universal concepts that binds us all. No matter what reality you live in, they have control over your daily life. As different as they are, so is the cast that fills their roles; especially that of Time by Raffi (Jacob Latimore). He was the best of the three pushing Howard to realize all the blessings he has left. Brigitte (Helen Mirren), known as death, was the wisest of them all, having that personality you can never argue with. She was like a loving grandmother who always tries to test you. Amy (Keira Knightly) portrayed love, and it fit like a tight glove with her being ridiculously emotional from the start. As we all know, love can mock, tease, and tempt you, and there’s nothing different about it in this film. While the gold medal goes to time, all of their additions were a plus, even though at this point it is still not clear if their involvement can be taken seriously.
No one likes to be lied to, and I feel like this film lied in many ways. No matter who you are, everyone goes through hard times. And when you do, we all have interesting ways to cope with it. Collateral Beauty tried to, by attempting to give you a vessel that you can relate to. Not only is it hard to relate to, but you end up being confused instead of enlightened. There were certain plot points and twists in the film that made no sense and had over complicated methods of story-telling to get its point across. Trying to appear unique and different is respected, but it is not a requirement. Will Smith’s role was great, and he deserves all the attention he will garner from this film. Though from the start it took him far too long to make any dialogue after his initial introduction, which casted a cloud of boredom. And while at its core the film is deeply saddening, it’s a discombobulated mess of story-telling that decided to jump over a sharp barbed wire fence, instead of just walking up to the door, turning the doorknob, and walking straight through.