DATELINE: Bereavement Hallucinations
Every once in a while a movie comes along that invites insult and derision. This time it is Will Smith’s dramedy called Collateral Beauty.
It has echoes of so many other, better stories, that we aren’t sure where to begin the diagnosis.
From the trailer you might believe this is a fantasy film on the lines of Love, Death, and Time, Meet in New York. You’d have been deceived, sort of.
A depressed man, dealing with the death of his child of six, has business associates that want to have evidence to commit him to a looney bin.
So, they arrange for actors to play Love, Death, and Time, to pay him a visit. It’s Gaslight—but as Helen Mirren, playing Death, discovers in the course of the movie, no one remembers that classic film, known for its good acting. No one will remember this one for that same reason.
When you start out with some of the most unlikable characters all woven into one plot, you are already behind the Oscar voting. Will Smith knows about being overlooked for a good performance—and lets his natural gray hairs show his love for acting this time as the movie lay dying.
We presume this is a cautionary tale—but we aren’t quite sure if we are being warned about sneaky business partners, cruel fate, or bloated self-pity. There is plenty of that stuff to go around in this movie. Just call it a sentimental journey.
Here’s the rub: you probably will watch it and hate yourself in the morning, which may be the opposite emotion the film wants you to have. It preaches at the audience enough to cause a backlash.
You may actually begin to think those “actors” playing at Death, Love, and Time, may be the real thing, like a coven of witches hanging out in the Big Apple for laughs.
At one point, Helen Mirren says, “This is not Noel Coward. It’s more like Chekhov.” Yes, the movie never falls short on lofty pretensions. You could do worse.