Every year there’s a Christmas ensemble film, the best of which has probably been Love Actually. This year we got Collateral Beauty, another ensemble piece about the values of life in Christmas time.
Collateral Beauty is the story of how Howard (Will Smith) is faced with the human incarnations of Love (Keira Knightley), Death (Helen Mirren), and Time (Jacob Latimore) that help him deal with the loss of his daughter. What we find out though, is that these characters are actually simply actors employed by the partner of Howard’s firm (played by Edward Norton), who wants to help Howard come back into a sane state in order to save the company.
The film’s structural idea is surprisingly original, and the layout if of the story is probably the reason most of these A-list actors signed on. But the actual final script ends up being much more superficial than it had the potential to be. In the hands of Richard Curtis, this could have been an extremely moving film, but in its current state it’s a simple B movie you might catch on an airplane.
The cast is impressive though, and their attempts to flesh out their characters and take some of their cheesy lines seriously, is entertaining enough. The only two that really stood out to me were one: Will Smith, for obvious reasons as the main character; he’s shown he’s capable of a range of roles and this grieving father is a great chance for him to show off. And the other standout was Kate Winslet, who really gets a very minor supporting role in this picture, but her expertise in her craft makes her seem like one of the few memorable roles of the film, crafting a real character out of a handful of scenes.
In the end though this holiday film ends up playing it too safe with sticking to its genre. The ensemble cast is shiny enough to entertain, but the failed ambition of the execution dulls the overall result.