Review – Collateral Beauty (2016)

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collateral-beauty-58380b623b719I have a confession to make. Before seeing Collateral Beauty, I was spoiled on the plot. That’s right, you don’t know what the actual plot is because the advertisement for the film is essentially false advertising to the point of misguiding the audience as to what they THOUGHT it was. So, it was that fact that really angered people to the point of giving it bad, bad reviews…and I do understand that, but my rating algorithm is designed to not forget about the good things the movie actually has, which is quite a bit, actually. So let’s get into it and attempt to explain my thinking.

When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty Written by Warner Bros (IMDb)

PEOPLE
★★★★★★★★★★

This category is all about the people in the film. This covers their acting ability, if the characters themselves are any good, if they work well together as a team, if they are deeper or flatter as characters, and if the casting director even did their job right. These are all very important issues to consider while reviewing film.
  1.  Acting: ★★
    • One of the first things you’ll notice with Collateral Beauty is that everyone, but especially Will Smith, is giving his all in his performance. There are some really strong displays of acting here. Not just from Smith, but really, from the entire cast…I rarely saw anything that I didn’t like, here. Two stars.
  2. Characters: ★★
    • Collateral Beauty is essentially all about characters. They may not have been introduced in the best of ways, but they are all wonderful characters that add so much value to how well this film turns out. Even if you hate the direction of the film, you can’t really argue that these aren’t memorable characters. They may not be incredibly memorable, but they are memorable enough to warrant two full stars here.
  3. Good Casting: ★★
    • I am actually one of the biggest fans of Will Smith there is, I swear. I will highly praise his 2005 album until I’m blue in the face because there are some incredible tracks on there. I’ve seen most, but not all of his films, and I will say that I haven’t loved every single one, but almost all of them, I think, are unbelievably unique and catered just for him, and I believe that here, as well.
    • The same can actually be said for the characters of Love, Death, and Time, as well as his co-workers as well. If anyone could be replaced, it would probably be the character of Time, although, he did an amazing job all on his own. So if I gave this any less than two stars, I’d be kidding myself.
  4.  Good Importance: ★★
    • The importance the characters sport in Collateral Beauty are really obvious, and as diverse as the cast of characters. Everyone has a role to play, and they are all very real and flawed human beings with a level of depth you might look past if you hate parts of the film, which I’ll get to in the BTS section soon enough. This is important, though, this was a finely-tuned story that all of the characters help tell.
  5.  Good chemistry: ★★
    • Finally, the chemistry found in this film finalizes the people category with a perfect score. This film has a wide and diverse cast of characters with a speck of inspiration that really allows everyone to work together flawlessly in this setting. You don’t think they will at first, but there is nothing but praise that I have for the people category. The same can be said for writing, as it, too, has a perfect rating.

WRITING
★★★★★★★★★

This category obviously covers the writing aspect of the critique. First, you want to know a little bit about the script. Specifically, how is the dialogue? Are they saying anything memorable or inspirational…or was it just a bland conversation to keep the story going? How was the story itself? Was it well-balanced or over-convoluted? Was it original? Was it even interesting? Once again, all very important questions
  1.  Dialogue: ★★
    • As with many other Will Smith films, he often has these really deep and meaningful thoughts and speeches, and his emotionally-driven character drives a lot of that dialogue through his awe-inspiring performance. So, most of the great dialogue was spoken by him, but there were some promising words spoken by the characters of Love, Death, and Time as well, all of which surprised me pretty efficiently and satisfyingly. Two stars well deserved here.
  2.  Good Balance: ★★
    • Some people would disagree with me when I say this story was rather simple and easy to comprehend. I don’t think there are too many characters, settings, or storylines. I believe it told the story it needed to tell perfectly, I just think people were expecting something entirely different, and so, that got in the way of realizing the balance itself was perfectly fine. Two stars.
  3.  Good Story: ★★
    • I truly, truly believe the story found in Collateral Beauty is a beautiful one, unfortunately, hidden behind some bad advertising and directing decisions. Had you watched it without any idea of what it was about other than a Will Smith film, you might potentially really enjoy it. There are elements here that are a bit disgraceful, but I believe it overcomes them in other areas…so it’s a give-and-take kind of thing. Two stars.
  4.  Originality: ★★
    • The closest thing I can think of to three mythical beings having a conversation with a cranky guy, it would probably be A Christmas Carol. However, when you watch this film, you know that’s really not the case. So, once you watch it, the originality is actually original, you just don’t know if that’ll be a good thing or a bad thing…just watch to the end, guys. Two stars.
  5.  Interesting: ★★
    • Was it interesting? Yes, even though I knew something about it before watching that would naturally disappoint me, there was still a natural level of interest I had in watching this movie, due to a bit of mystery surrounding the film. I may the only one that thinks that, so be it, but I wanted to keep watching it, regardless of how it turned out. Two stars.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES
★★★★

Never forget that there are hard-working individuals working on this film day in and day out. It’s a great story, yes, but people helped make that possible. People like the directors, who have to take written word on a script, and somehow translate that for the big screen in a way an audience would understand. Editors, who are given a ton of material and expected to further make that idea and image the director has already – into a reality, like the director of photography, whose job is to make this movie look amazing…whether that means natural settings and landscapes, CGI, 3D, technical effects, or otherwise. The production crew, who are in charge of making advertisements that aren’t false, and don’t give too much away. Finally, the sound crew, who are in charge of everything the audio has – sound effects, sound editing, music, you name it. These are all puzzle pieces.
  1. Visuals: ★☆
    • Here’s where things get iffy. The behind-the-scenes stuff is where things really fall apart for this movie. I think everything else is fantastic, but this really ruins it for some people. First up is visuals. I’ll say that nothing in this movie is really remarkable when it came to visuals, but nothing looked terrible either. So for this subcategory, I’m going with only one star.
  2.  Directing: ☆☆
    • Here’s the first terrible subcategory, and there are two in this BTS category. The first is direction. The director made a decision on how to introduce the characters of Love, Death, and Time…and that decision was a TERRIBLE one. Even without the advertising making it worse, it was a bad decision outright, because what it does is ruin a TON of potential, and an overall better movie…just by not doing what the director did.
  3.  Editing: ★★
    • The editing was fine here, smooth and perfect. Two stars.
  4.  Advertisement: ☆☆
    • Here’s the other major mistake – advertisement. The trailers, ads, and descriptions to this film gave off a very specific notion that this movie was going to be something that it wasn’t, which again, the director made worse by doing what he did. The false advertising PLUS the bad direction decisions make a deadly combination that critics all over consider bad enough to tarnish the rest of the film. I do understand where they are coming from, but I still like to look at things objectionably, and use my checklist to decide what the movie actually does great at. Let’s move on.
  5.  Music: ★☆
    • Music here is mostly typical. It has its moments, but for the most part, there’s nothing really spectacular about it, nor do I feel an urge to buy the soundtrack or score. One star here.

NARRATIVE ARC
★★★★★★★★★

Have you ever been left wondering what it was about a film that felt…off, but you couldn’t place what it was? Well, a lot of people actually aren’t educated on the traditional narrative arc structure – which is seen in almost every movie or book story. With a missing piece, you might not understand what feels missing.
  1.  Introduction: ★★
    • We are back to perfect scores here, as the narrative arc for Collateral Beauty meets the requirements for everything. The intro here introduces us to Will Smith’s characters, his co-workers, and ultimately Love, Death, and Time.
  2.  Inciting Incident/Crossing the Threshold: ★★
    • The inciting incident/crossing the threshold is indeed there, but I can’t talk too much about it because I actually consider this to be a pretty massive spoiler, although it should have never been that way to begin with. This is the very thing that critics hate, and they let tarnish the rest of the movie with…keep that in mind.
  3.  Obstacles: ★★
    • When Love, Time, and Death are trying to put some sense into Will Smith’s character, he first tries to avoid them, and then he tries to unleash his rage with them. Meanwhile, the characters are also initiating conversations with the co-workers, who are having their own crises that can be seen as obstacles.
  4.  Epiphany/Climax: ★★
    • Everything boils to a certain point, for everyone, in a very clear and incredibly emotional way. Two points here, obviously.
  5.  Falling Action: ★★
    • Then, after everything, as it needed to, the story settled down and tied every loose end up and made us happy that we watched it. Two stars.

OVERALL ENTERTAINMENT
★★★★☆☆☆☆

Here’s something most critics overlook because they’re always so keyed in on critiquing the technical elements of a film. Well, that may be statistically accurate, but the numbers that are released aren’t always reflective of what we enjoyed about it…which is when we say the movie was under-appreciated or whatever. This category focuses on pure entertainment.
  1.  Rewatchability: ★☆
    • I could see myself watching this again, but probably not for a while, and I’m not sure if I’d seek it out, or just stumble it on the TV guide or something before watching. Because I’m not sure about the circumstances, I’d have to say one star for this subcategory.
  2.  Fun: ★☆
    • I’ll give this one star, because I wouldn’t call this a “fun” movie, though I did have some fun watching it. When you go in expecting less than you get, then you are pleasantly surprised when it turns out it’s better than that, you do end up having a sort of fun time with it.
  3.  Impulse to buy it: ★
    • I wouldn’t put it past me to buy this film. It’d have to cheaper or be a digital copy or something for me to get it, but I really wouldn’t mind having this in my collection some day. Because I wouldn’t be rushing to the store to buy a brand new version, I have to give this one star.
  4.  Impulse to talk to someone about it: ★★
    • I can’t even tell you how much I want to talk to someone about the movie. There are questions I want to ask, but because I don’t know anyone who has actually seen it, I am completely unable to talk about it. At all. It’s great when I feel like this, but annoying when I can’t talk, lol. Two stars.
  5.  Sucks the audience in: ☆☆
    • I don’t know. I don’t really think it pulled me in as an audience member. It was certainly interesting, and I wanted to know what happens, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, and if I had to pause it, I would pause it. So as far as sucking me in…I didn’t really feel that.

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SPECIALTY QUESTIONS

These are special questions written by you before seeing the movie, based on expectations, questions, stereotypes, you name it. If it’s a Tom Cruise movie, have Cruise-isms, if it’s a horror film, ask how scary it is, if it’s a sequel, ask if it fits in with the universe or if it was even needed to begin with, you catch the drift.

INSPIRATIONAL?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #1

The first specialty question written before seeing the movie was – is it inspirational? When watching the trailer to the movie, it gave me very specific ideas of what would happen, which turned into expectations, and one of those expectations was that it would be an inspirational film. Again, people may still be mad about the inciting incident that they wouldn’t consider this inspirational, but I do. I feel like I kept an open mind more than others, and I felt that in the end, what they did was somewhat smart and different. We like different, sometimes. No, they didn’t make the best choices in the world, but what they did was interesting.

MAGICAL?
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

SPECIALTY QUESTION #2

The next expectation I had while watching the trailers was that it would be mystical or magical in some way. Now, this is where it fails, and I almost gave it zero stars, but there is still a couple of elements that actually make it magical. One of them, I can’t talk about. The other one I can, and that is…it had a theme. Not only was Smith’s character benefitting from these characters, but so were others, in the same sort of way, and I thought the way they did that was really neat and cool. However, since it wasn’t how I ever expected it to be, I have to give it five stars.

EMOTIONAL?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #3

Here’s another expectation I had. The trailers looked highly emotional, and I expected the same out of this one. What can I say? This movie was basically made from tears, there’s so much emotion in it. This is probably the strongest element to the movie altogether, so I obviously have to give this the full 10 stars.

WILL SMITH?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #4

Yes, this one is a weird one. I wanted to know if this fit in with the other Will Smith films I love, particularly the dramatic ones he’s done so well in. Honestly, this is some of the best acting I’ve seen from him, and I believe the uniqueness of the story definitely fits in with his filmography. So as weird of a category as this is, I’ll have to give this 10 stars as well.

HALFWAY DECENT
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #5

The final specialty question has to deal with the question on if this is halfway decent or not. Most critics, as I’ve mentioned before, let the inciting incident get to them, so they’d disagree with me when I say this, but I really think there’s a hidden beauty and gem waiting patiently in the film, waiting to be discovered. I think I discovered that right off the bat. There is something very special and beautiful about Collateral Beauty.

RATING: 84/100

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