Collateral Beauty

by Justin Johnson

Collateral Beauty is not your typical Christmas movie.  Sure, the trailer may lead you to believe it has loose ties to that famous Charles Dicken’s tale of a life changing event, but the loose ties are thin and flimsy at best.  Oh, and a note for those more emotional viewers, come with tissue handy.  Collateral Beauty  tells the story of Howard, a wealthy business owner who along with his partners Whit, Claire and Simon (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena) have established a very successful advertising agency in New York.  When Howard suddenly loses his daughter, he becomes emotionally detached and perhaps a bit delusional and as a result his successful business is threatened.  Seeing the business slip away, Whit, Claire, and Simon embark on a mission to rescue the business and in the process perhaps help their friend.  To say much more might spoil some plot twists, but let’s just say everyone learns a life lesson by the end of the film.

If you want an emotionally charged film with a decent story this Christmas, Collateral Beauty delivers.  However, it delivers in a very underwhelming manner.  Three of the main characters: Death, Love, and Time played by Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly and Jacob Latimore never really get to develop their interactions with Howard in a meaningful way.  Too much time was spent on random bicycle rides and slow scenes of depression to really build the character of Howard into a loveable hero who interacts with his abstractions of love, death and time.  And without that connection to the characters, the audience really never cares what happens to Howard and his friends. And ultimately we don’t connect to any desire for redemption for our hero.

The real drawback for me was the hopelessness the movie proclaims.  In a world devoid of meaning and hope, a world without purpose,  you are left to create a nice catch phrase; look for the collateral beauty.  Your kid died and you find yourself without answers in any world religion or science?  Just look for the collateral beauty.  Your business empire is collapsing?  Just look for the collateral beauty.  Really?!?  If you read those last few sentences and are thinking, man that’s deep – then go see this movie, its tailor made for you.  Otherwise, you will likely walk out of the theater wondering if this is really as meaningful as you can get in a Hollywood that no longer values any connection with God.  And the film in the name of inclusiveness, bashes any religious viewpoint of God offering hope, purpose or meaning to tragic events.  And in removing God from the equation, falls inevitably to its own demise, while looking for the collateral beauty.

3 out of 7 – Rated PG13 for thematic elements.  The actors do well with what they are given but with such a flimsy plot, it’s hard to connect with the characters beyond a superficial level.