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Will Smith stars as a grieving father dealing with reality and taking us on an emotional rollercoaster in David Frankel’s latest melodrama.
Howard a charismatic advertising executive, suffers from deep depression after losing his daughter. He spends most of his time building dominoes, writing letters to the universe and stares at the wall alone in his apartment. His three friends and business partners Whit (Ed Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simone (Michael Pena) are try to help him, and anticipate that one day he will return to his normal self, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. So when their backs are push against the wall, and they are about to lose everything? They hire Sally (Ann Dowd) an unsubtle private investigator to follow Howard,they soon learn that he has been writing letters to Time, Death and Love as some sort of therapy. So they have an idea to obtain three actors; Amiee (Keira Knightley) the emotional actress, Brigitte (Helen Mirren) the acentric lead actress, and Raffi (Jacob Latimore) the actor with attitude. To portray Love, Death and Time in hopes that Howard can come to terms with his grievances.
As the film begins to drag along with irrelevant subplots, it begins to take effect as Howard takes a few steps in joining a group of grieving parents lead by Madeline (Naomie Harris, Moonlight). Who delivers a powerful performance as a mother who also lost her daughter. Howard begins to come to terms and dealing with the reality that he might lose everything including his company. No doubt screenwriter Allan Loeb took light inspiration from A Christmas Carol, and just like the Scrooge tale? The best moments in the movie is when Howard encounters Love, Time and Death. That is when Will Smith is at his strongest, and delivers a powerful performance on what is it like for a man to lose his child. Unfortunately Loeb clinches on the drama with the side characters, and uses them as a reflection of Love, Time and Death. It’s also disappointing that Loeb chose to focus on Whit’s relationship with his daughter (played by Kylie Rogers) instead of spending more time developing the relationship between Howard and his daughter, as well as the relationship between Howard and Madeline.
Both Frankel and Loeb are persistent on emotionally manipulating the audience, and it affects Will Smith’s Howard from lack of character development. Although director David Frankel mildly delivers a safe holiday film with fantastic performances, thanks to Will Smith and Naomie Harris. The rest of Collateral Beauty suffers from irrelevant subplots and Hallmark cliches.