There’s nothing wrong with a film that wants to be a tearjerker, but Collateral Beauty delivers its heavy handed message with such little subtlety and tact that it comes off as outwardly manipulative.

What’s perhaps most annoying is that the film’s heart is in the right place. But with a smattering of one dimensional characters with paper thin motivations and flaws it’s truly hard to invest yourself into the tragedies and redemption of them. The heart of the film, despite shafting him from any decent amount of screen time, is Will Smith’s character. With very little solid material, it’s hard to make these characters feel real. If nothing else, this film made me feel sorry for the cast.

The story is this. A depressed advertising executive who struggles to move on from a traumatic death in his past writes letters to the abstract entities of death, love and time. His ‘friends’ in a bid to remove him from the board of executives so that they can close on a deal to save the company hire a troupe of actors to portray death, love and time to make him look like he’s losing his mind.

There’s a compelling story idea there, somewhere, but my God they bungled it by shoving in as many characters as possible into what could have been a simple drama of a man trying to move on from trauma. But no, these entities have to be actors, who are paired off with other ad execs who in turn have their own tramautic plot lines. It’s exhausting, and for a 90 minute film every single scene was dolloping on the faux philisophical wisdom of life with such on-the-nose dialogue that it beggers belief how this script got through development.

For such a short film it felt terribly, terribly long. I consciously looked at the time, expecting the film to be nearly over only to find I had only watched 50 minutes. The pacing was completely off, and a lot of that has to do with the script trying to make you care about a massive cast of characters that a TV show would have a hard time developing over the course of an entire season. In a film that is entirely hinged about how much we care about the characters, this feels like its biggest transgression.

With an twist ending that seems to defy all forms of logic in order for a cheap emotional hit, the true tragedy of Collateral Beauty was that the original premise is full of promise, but the execution is so wildly off base that it’s hard not to wonder who was keeping a watch on this film.

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