By Jess Fenton
8th January 2017

In the early 2000s, a couple of filmmakers were challenged to come up with the dumbest yet most commercial movie title and then produce the film. The result was ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ starring the carpool karaoke king himself, James Cordon. The subsequent film was... well, it was what it was. The point is, just like a book is more than its cover, a film needs to be more than its title. My guess is screenwriter Allan Loeb never got that memo. Ever heard the term “collateral beauty” before? Nope, me either. I'd bet my money that someone decided those words are pretty together and tried to base an entire film around them. Yet after 97 minutes of having of said film that even Hellen Keller could understand explained to me, I’m still not sure what they mean. It’s still a pretty title regardless. Let’s see how you go with it.


Howard (Will Smith) is an charismatic and prolific advertising executive who lives in business and in life respecting the three abstracts - Love, Time and Death. After his young daughter dies, he becomes an emotional zombie. His marriage and his work suffer as a result, and now his company is starting to go under as well. His three friends slash business partners are at the end of their rope and need to sell the company which they can’t do without Howard’s approval - something he won’t give them, not because he doesn’t want to, but out of sheer apathy. Desperate, Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) employ three struggling actors to confront Howard as the abstracts - Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jason Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley), capture these encounters on film thus “proving” his mental incompetence and voting him out of the company.

What appears to be an intriguing and thought-provoking existential drama... it’s outright stupid.

On paper, what appears to be an intriguing and thought-provoking existential drama about grief turns out to be about nothing more than corporate gaslighting. Doesn’t sound so pretty now does it? Because it’s not. In fact, it’s outright stupid. Almost every scene is filled with layer upon layer of exposition as if the characters are trying to explain it even to themselves because it’s so stupid and convoluted. It’s almost insulting. I just wanted to scream “We get it! Move on!” throughout the whole thing. Filled with such an accomplished and decorated cast, one can only assume that none of them actually read the script before signing on.

‘Collateral Beauty’ so wants to be profound and sparkle with joy and hope, but it drowns in its own shallowness, hoping the pretty title and favoured cast will distract you.

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