Every year in America films are released around late December so they can qualify for awards season. Many pander towards award voters in order to grab a cherished Golden Globe or Academy award. Some movies are more shameless than others in infusing plenty of dramatic moments to tug on voter’s heartstrings. Such films are called ‘Oscar-bait’. ‘Collateral Beauty’ is ‘Oscar-bait’. Overtly cynical than most, ‘Collateral Beauty’s woeful effort in award attention-seeking makes it one of the worst in recent memory.
Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising executive recovering from a great tragedy. Desperate to find closure, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death. Seeing their work colleague go off the emotional rails are Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena). Using this to their advantage in order to gain promotions, they hire actors to impersonate Love, Time and Death. Talking to these spiritual impersonators, Howard’s life is given new purpose amongst the spectral deception.
‘Collateral Beauty’ is a mean-spirited movie filled with selfish characters. This isn’t something that would endear itself to viewers and award deciders. Its allusions to the Frank Capra directed classic ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ don’t help with its sprinkling of fake sentiment making for tiresome viewing. The main point is the unbelievable story and lack of empathy between characters. Their relationships are poorly handled with various subplots unsatisfactorily explained.
The cast fail to convey any passion to their roles with Smith’s dramatics emoting eliciting little sympathy. It’s difficult having empathy for any of the characters as their actions are derived from pure selfishness than true humanity. This leads to not caring about what happens with the clunky direction not helping. New York’s landscape looks pretty and distracts from the turgid events. That’s one of the few saving graces from an un-memorably dull enterprise.
Using its glossy veneer to disguise its nasty underbelly, ‘Collateral Beauty’ is a deceptive beast. It’s a poor effort at ‘Oscar-baiting’ and one that hasn’t paid off. Next time perhaps Will Smith should make a good movie than appearing in badly written ones which may give him a chance at Oscar glory.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 2
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.