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Collateral Beauty is a drama centered around Howard (Will Smith), a successful business entrepreneur who retreats from his company after a personal tragedy. Howard then spends his time writing letters about the tragic events that happened to him and mails them to the concepts of Time, Love, and Death. He soon ends up meeting them when Time, Love, and Death pay him a personal visit. The film is produced by Michael Sugar (13 Reasons Why, The Knick), Allan Loeb (The Space Between Us, The Switch), Bard Dorros (Spotlight, Triple 9), and Anthony Bregman (Foxcatcher, Begin Again).
Howard's company is crumbling. Stocks are down. Three employees concerned about their job security all decide that their boss needs some help in order to get things running smoothly again. Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Pena) all decide to hire a theatre troupe of actors to perform the parts of Time (Jacob Latimore), Death (Helen Mirren), and Love (Kiera Knightly), who convince Howard that they are real and that they decided to meet him and help him.
Whit, Claire, and Simon hire the actors in the hopes of helping to save Howard and the company. Howard quickly becomes stunned by his encounters with Time, Death, and Love and is shocked by how they are manifested before him. He begins bicycling all across New York City and he meets Madeline (Naomie Harris), whom he starts a friendship with.
Collateral Beauty isn't a success in the way one might hope given it's all star cast and intriguing premise. Part of the problem is that Will Smith's character is barely even in the film (and hardly appears for the first 1/3rd of the film). It makes it hard to connect to the storyline around his tragedy. The film centers around his character and yet the filmmaking doesn't give enough development of his storyline for it to resonate as strongly as it should.
Then there's the issue with the premise of Howard actually meeting Time, Death, and Love. As a high-concept, it was interesting. It seemed to have promise for a spiritually and emotionally rich story. However, having him meet three theatre actors portraying these concepts after being paid by desperate employees determined to not lose their jobs isn't interesting or effective. It doesn't work.
The supporting characters are unlikeable as they help send their emotionally unstable boss, who is supposed to be their friend, into even more of a downward spiral as he quickly believes he's seeing the literal manifestations of Time, Death, and Love... all of whom he totally becomes engaged in meeting. It's a terrible way to tell a story and it makes what would have been a sweetly sentimental film into a surprisingly (and unintentionally) dark one.
The film does have some quality production aspects. The costumes designed by Leah Katznelson (Bride Wars, The Visitor) are suitable for the cast of characters. The cinematography by Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler, Creed, The Visit) is sleekly produced, crisp, and satisfactory. The music score by Theodore Shapiro (Tropic Thunder, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) isn't memorable but is perfectly serviceable.
The screenplay by Allan Loeb (21, Just Go With It, The Space Between Us) isn't as strong as it should have been. The concept itself was interesting but the execution of it was disappointing. The film could have been an emotionally rewarding journey wearing its heart on its sleeve: the premise and cast certainly suggested as much. Yet the film is a poorly executed, schmaltzy and badly done effort.
Director David Frankel (Marley and Me, The Devil Wears Prada) doesn't help matters with his sub-par direction. Frankel has enlisted several first-rate actors for a film that is mundane and badly executed. Collateral Beauty won't give audiences warm, sweet, sentimental feelings. It's more likely to bore an audience with its frustrating execution and well-intentioned but ultimately disastrous storytelling. Collateral Beauty is more like a collateral bore.
Collateral Beauty is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The film has received a strong encode which preserves the cinematography of Alberti. The film has rich colors, strong clarity, and overall depth. It also features a strong 35 mbps bit-rate.
The 24 bit 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless audio presentation is a decent if underwhelming sound design. Collateral Beauty barely utilizes its surround sound soundstage for an immersive experience and is instead a merely serviceable design. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.
Please Note: This is a Blu-ray + Digital HD UV Combo Pack release.
A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty (HD, 15 min.) is a behind the scenes featurette with interviews with the cast, crew, screenwriter, and director about the production of the film.
Collateral Beauty is a surprisingly disappointing and underwhelming film and it isn't even close to being as heartfelt as it's trailers suggest. While the film has an excellent cast, the screenplay and direction ultimately fail to help muster up much enthusiasm for a film which is a poorly executed effort.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.