Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty is the sort of film that requires a more in depth review to explain just how appalling it really is. This review contains spoilers.

Are you one of the poor souls that went to see the infamous Movie 43? A film with an incredible array of stars, magnificently poor writing and a horrendous sense of direction that left everybody wondering how it was ever funded. Collateral Beauty has been similarly shot down by reviewers, and whilst the obvious comparisons to the aforementioned disaster might be unfitting, the minor glimpses of potential are far overshadowed by the fact that Collateral Beauty gets worse and worse at every turn.

Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is a successful advertising executive who falls apart after the harrowing death of his six-year-old daughter. Depressed, contemplating death, and worst of all, under performing at work, Howard’s concerned “friends” (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña) worry in supposed equal measure for Howard’s mental state, and the state of their own professional futures. The trio hire an investigator, Sally Price (Ann Dowd) to acquire evidence that would allow them to take control of the company from Howard (with his best interests in mind of course), and they soon find out that he is writing letters to Love, Death and Time – three constructs that he once used in his advertising work and is now blaming for the death of his daughter. With all obvious options ignored, Howard’s “friends” hire three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore) to each approach him pretending to be one of the constructs, hoping that he will have a public outburst whilst their PI is filming so that they can then - after digitally removing the actors - show it to the board to prove that Howard is unfit to run the company.

*Oh the humanity*

Written by Allan Loeb (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 21) and directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me), Collateral Beauty had enough capability behind it to produce at least a half-decent film, but somewhere between the ethically-barren plotline and the kindergarten dialogue, the film collapses into a hilarious smoldering pile of Hollywood farce. The story in full is as unbelievable as it is in summary - a gently sickening ride through saccharine and syrupy messages, superficial plot twists and an array of A-listers trying to act their way out of one of the worst dramatic scripts in recent memory. One horrendous issue is the dialogue, which is more literary abomination than uplifting quotage - when you have Dame Helen Mirren spitting out lines like “Nothing is ever really dead if you look at it right” surely it must be obvious that you’ve created a steaming pile of script.

Putting aside the fact that none of the characters other than Howard are even remotely able to draw empathy from the audience because of their involvement in the repulsive scheme, we also have to sit through the hilariously-poor establishing of these token issues that each of them are struggling with. Norton’s Whit is drifting further apart from his daughter, Winslet’s Claire is running out of time to have a child, and Peña’s Simon is dying - we’re all dying Simon, but you decided to die an arsehole, so I don’t care. The acting is mediocre across the board, particularly when you consider the talent on screen, but the material is so atrociously bad that there’s hardly room for improvement. Will Smith’s is the only half-decent performance, but that’s mainly because he doesn’t have to talk.

There’s a swath of other annoying issues throughout like the fact that the investigator is “secretly” filming in the background with her phone in portrait mode, but when they show the footage to the board it’s in landscape and clearly shot with a cinema camera, or the hilariously stupid idea that they could simply digitally remove the actors without an expensive composite artist. Then when they show it to the board they acknowledge the fact that they’ve hired the actors anyway. What was the actual point of it then? I could go on, if not for the inevitable brain hemorrhage that analysing this excrement would give me.

Somewhere deep in the heart of this film there was a tinge of potential, completely lost in the overblown lunacy of this attempted storytelling. In the end though, watching Collateral Beauty is a bit like pondering how quickly your life is flying by, your crippling debt, the irreparable damage we’ve done to the environment, total nuclear annihilation, the futility of existence, the end of time, a Trump presidency; the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

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