Collateral Beauty

collateral-beauty-trailerWhile searching for Will Smith’s filmography, I was surprised to see the pleasure with which critics are tearing this movie apart. The reason I was looking for Smith’s info was to try to figure out whether Collateral Beauty is his best dramatic performance (and I quickly realized that since I haven’t seen Ali, I’m disqualified from weighing in on that topic). With that lead-in, it probably goes without saying that I again think it’s been too long since the critics were thrown a juicy morsel, they’re searching for anything to bite down on as a result, and Collateral Beauty has been flagged as an easy target.

Collateral Beauty is not a great movie by any means, but it’s very watchable for several reasons. First, Smith reminds us that he can hold his own against anyone, no matter how many Oscar nominations/wins they may have (his co-stars in Collateral Beauty, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightly, have two Oscar wins and countless nominations between them – incidentally, how does Michael Pena not have any yet?). Smith is consistently the most interesting person on screen even though for a significant portion of the movie he doesn’t say a word.

Second, there’s something undeniably watchable as the movie tries to take aim at cliches, even when it does so by using other cliches. Perhaps it’s just that the cliches that bother me the most were the ones under attack. I can’t really say any more without spoiling some of the characters’ arcs, so if you want more of a rant on that point then feel free to request more details in the comments section.

Third, I found out early on that I was wrong about how the movie’s plot would play out in a major way, which almost never happens nowadays due to the sheer number of trailers foisted on me (especially when half of them have no qualms about spoiling the best parts of the movie they’re promoting). On a related note, seeing a movie in Hawaii earlier this week was sobering because I think they showed every trailer currently in rotation. I am sure Canadian theatres will soon follow suit and it’s already too much here! Just let me watch the movie I paid for already.

Since I’ve started complaining (it never takes too long), it seems like a good time to talk about negatives from Collateral Beauty, and there are some significant ones. Β The bigggest problem is that Smith’s character’s supposed friends treat him in the worst way imaginable during the worst time of his life, and it seems we are supposed to forgive them for it. The film attempts to make it easier for us to do that but its method requires a major swerve by Smith’s character that came too quickly to feel natural, as well as a twist that seemed too convenient a fix.

That same convenient fix also transformed the tertiary characters’ motivations from awful to divine and again the turn felt too abrupt. While it made thematic sense and actually tied the movie together well, the execution was too rough to be satisfying (and it also gave rise to a new (/old) complaint about the trailer that I can’t discuss without getting into spoilers so again, comment if you’re curious to hear more of a rant on this point).

All in all, Collateral Beauty is worth a watch and is definitely not deserving of the hatred it’s receiving from critics. It’s quite decent and gets bonus points for making me choke up a few times (something that doesn’t happen very often). Sure, it’s cheating a bit by focusing on death and loss, but Collateral Beauty is intended as a tearjerker and wholeheartedly embraces its nature. Is that such a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Collateral Beauty knows what it is and delivers exactly what you’d expect. If you’re in the mood for a sob story then this is your horse. I think riding this teary pony wore Jay out, though, so be prepared if you’re a real cryer like Jay as opposed to a robot who occasionally feels sad (which is the category Jay has put me in and I’ve really got no valid argument against it – beep-boop).

Collateral Beauty gets a score of six teary-eyed robots out of ten.

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23 thoughts on “Collateral Beauty

    1. Sean Post author

      Your description fits the movie really well. It’s a decent melancholy trip which reminded me a little bit of Magnolia. But Collateral Beauty doesn’t have the same brilliance underlying it as Magnolia does, let alone any scene comparable to Magnolia’s mindblowingly awesome Aimee Mann singalong.

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  1. Brittani

    I think some of the critic reviews on this have been hilarious, particularly the Guardian’s. I had to spoil the twists for myself after hearing people talking about them, I’m glad you liked it. I think I’ll be skipping.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Thanks for the reference to the Guardian’s review. That level of snark is always fun to read but this movie seems undeserving of the total disdain it’s receiving across the board.

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    1. Sean Post author

      It’s definitely not bad. Honestly, I liked it. It tried, it didn’t quite pull things together, but its emotion got to me and it wrapped things up in a way that mostly made sense even though I think the route it took was a little awkward.

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  2. societyreviews

    I was stunned to see the bad reviews for this film, I admitted that it could get predictable at times but it was still a strong emotional movie. The fact Why Him and Office Christmas Party has a better score proves Rotten Tomatoes is full of it this year.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Haven’t seen Why Him? yet but I totally agree with the comparison to Office Christmas Party. This is a better movie, hands down, but you’d never know it from the reviews and it becomes even less apparent from the review aggregators’ scores.

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  3. Jay

    It was a little on-the-nose for me and I definitely agree with the ending. I think it makes an interesting point but it wraps up too quickly (and perhaps with not enough follow-up) to be 100% satisfying.
    Poor Will Smith. His eyes were blood shot THE ENTIRE MOVIE. This movie reminded me a little of Reign Over Me. It was definitely intended to remind us that Smith is a star and a talent, and it’s sad that people are picking it apart so readily. It’s not great and it maybe could have been, under someone else’s direction. But it’s a solid effort that was enjoyable and yes, also a hardship, although I don’t remember crying.
    I have silently wept through I’m not sure how many movies. I probably shed tears at half. But this time there was no quiet weeping about it. I’ve never noticed myself do this before, but I actually made noise on a couple of occasions. Not even sob noises, just pathetic little squeaks. Dear me.

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  4. Wendell

    I’m going to see this, at some point, but the trailers make it seem so dreary I’m not in a rush. Just from that, it seems like he did another Seven Pounds. I actually like that one, but it’s not exactly a feel-good flick. That brings me to the latest trailer I saw for Collateral Beauty which positioned as some type of family Christmas movie. I’m confused.

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    1. Jay

      Can’t blame you for being confused. I’d heard it billed as Will Smith’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It isn’t. It’s not exactly feel-good either, but I wouldn’t call it dreary. Sad, but alive. And though it’s emotional it doesn’t feel like a chore to watch.

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  5. reocochran

    I am thankful of your liking this film since it is on my list to see. I am sure people pick on some actors and plots more than others. . .
    I liked the films, “Seven Pounds” and the one which was a true story about the homeless man with a good ending, “Pursuit of Happiness.” I liked those a lot! πŸ™‚
    I felt that the book and movie The Woman on the Train was way, way too over-rated. The book is almost trash with such simple thoughts and short sentences.
    I value movies which bring something to the table or make me think. Happy Holidays to you, Sean! and to all xo

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  6. J.

    Think this is one of those movies I’ll catch on Netflix (too many of them these days).

    Folks maybe target this one cause Smith is struggling to stay relevant?

    As for Ali, I think that one was spared being torn apart cause it was about the Greatest.

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  7. Pingback: How to Buy an Oscar | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  8. CineMuseFilms

    I have never been so confused about a movie in all my life. Not because of the film but because of its orchestrated assassination. If the film was set in the 17th Century with appropriate adjustment to the text, costume and settings etc, it would be lauded as a fine Shakespearean fantasy about love, time and death. Why can’t the critics see this?

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    1. Sean Post author

      Orchestrated assassination is a good phrase. This wasn’t a great movie but it wasn’t terrible, and yet it got consistently slammed by the critics. It’s all too easy to pile on a movie that gets some initial bad reviews by adding your own, and that must be what happened here.

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      1. CineMuseFilms

        It would make a great research project. We could start with a pattern analysis that identifies where the lemmings run when a few early commercial voices make loud negative noises. Or it could be that the release of this film at Xmas on the tail of the Oscars season deprived it of friendly space. Or the commentariat simply have no taste or appreciation for deeply themed magical realism. Who knows?

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