Collateral Beauty

 

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Love and tears are central in a film unlikely to win admiration from critics.

 
Collateral Beauty

Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore

  

This is a film that belongs to a decidedly rare genre - that of the whimsical weepie. There could be some argument as to whether or not Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life fits into that category, but it's certainly safe to say that in general any film of this kind invites disdain from the critics. It will therefore surprise me if Collateral Beauty earns favourable reviews although it is competently directed by David Frankel as one would expect from the man who made The Devil Wears Prada and Hope Springs. It also has a cast filled with well-established names who do not disgrace themselves, but the material itself is such that it is all down to personal taste as to whether one goes with the film or not.

 

The plot pivots on the fact that Howard (Will Smith) who runs an advertising agency has failed two years on to get over the tragic death from cancer of his six-year-old daughter. His decline is affecting the business and, to overcome his naysaying that is preventing the agency from functioning effectively, Howard's partner, Whit (Edward Norton), enlists employees Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) to assist in a bizarre plan. They discover that Howard in his grief has addressed letters of anguish to Love, Time and Death (as one does!). Consequently, with the idea of playing up to his illusions, Whit finds struggling actors ready to take money for appearing to Howard as Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Death (Helen Mirren). Their chosen words will either pull him out of his depressed state or, alternatively, will provide evidence through videos of these encounters that Howard is mentally unstable and can be legally ignored by the business.

 

Set in the days just before Christmas, this tale plays down the occasional humorous line to rely on pathos and emotion and that includes Howard's eventual visits to a bereavement group run by Madeleine (Naomie Harris) where he encounters others who have lost children. The screenplay demands that we believe that Howard accepts these visitations as genuine even if he does talk in passing of hallucinations and those ready to embrace sentimentality in a context of Christmas escapism may take all this in their stride aided by some good acting (Mirren in particular). Those who take that view will not jibe at unexpected scenes late in the movie which incorporate not just one outrageous twist to the plot but two. But it is all a matter of taste whether you see this as hogwash however efficiently staged or as an entertainment that will reduce you to tears.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Ann Dowd.

 

Dir David Frankel, Pro Allan Loeb, Bard Dorros, Michael Sugar, Anthony Bregman and Kevin Scott Frakes, Screenplay Loeb, Ph Maryse Alberti, Pro Des Beth Mickle, Ed Andrew Marcus, Music Theodore Shapiro, Costumes Leah Katznelson.

 

New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Anonymous Content/Overbrook Entertainment/Palm Star Media/Likely Story-Warner Bros.
97 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 26 December 2016. Cert. 12A.