When a successful advertising executive loses his daughter, his entire world crumbles around him. He retreats into seclusion, losing his mind, his friends and his enthusiasm for life. He writes letters to the "three abstractions"; love, time and death. These abstractions present themselves to Howard in hopes of putting his life back together.
Collateral Beauty is a well-meaning drama, it's intended to lift our spirits and leave us with a lump in our throat, but there's a huge difference in the way this film was marketed and the way it actually is. The trailers show that physical representations of love, time and death present themselves to Howard after he reached out to them. The actual film is about Howard's friends hiring actors to portray these abstractions so that they can video tape him talking to them, digitally remove the actors and show the footage to his company so he can be fired for looking crazy and their jobs can be saved. This absurd plot comes off as mean spirited, shamelessly manipulative and just plain wrong considering Howard's tragedy and current mental state.
Somewhere inside Collateral Beauty is a really sweet film, there are a handful of scenes that would have worked had the story been tweaked much like it was in the marketing. Howard is an understandably broken man, he lost a six year old daughter and clearly that will ruin a person, so his friends doing such a horrible thing to him in order for them to benefit themselves really struck me the wrong way. What's even worse is that their plan doesn't really make a lot of sense. How do these people have the skill or the know-how to digitally remove people from videos on an iPhone and make it look 100% real?
Will Smith stars as Howard and it's a very good performance, in fact, all of the performances are good. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena and Jacob Latimore are all also really strong. What might have made Howard a more relatable character is if we ever really saw him before his daughter's death. We get one really short scene at the beginning of the film showing Howard talk to his employees and that's all.
The script is so concerned with hiding twists from you that it's constantly cutting corners in the story as a way to keep reveals hidden until the conclusion. There isn't much else to say about Collateral Beauty other than the filmmakers made a really poor creative choice. This could have been good but it went completely in the wrong direction. I'm genuinely surprised at how this film got made with such incredible talent in front of the camera. This is an awful story with even worse characters, I definitely recommend skipping this one. Collateral Beauty gets a 3/10.