Collateral Beauty

In theaters Friday, Dec. 16

Markette Sheppard, WUSA9 --- Collateral Beauty stars Will Smith (and is co-produced by his production company Overbrook Entertainment). Smith’s co-stars include an A-list line up of talent with Ed Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman and Keira Knightly, along with rising star Jacob Latimore (a fresh-faced thespian who holds his own among the top-billed Hollywood heavyweights).

The film chronicles the emotional journey of a successful New York City advertising executive (Smith) who suffers a deep personal tragedy involving his kindergarten-age daughter. In the film, he goes from being portrayed as the Steve Jobs of Manhattan marketing to a despondent shell of a man who can barely function at a company that he helped to build. His friends and business partners (Norton, Winslet and Peña) go to desperate, unconventional measures in order to save him and their business out of a fear that they’ll all lose their jobs, income and everything they worked so hard to create.

After the main characters and foundation of the story are introduced, the film takes off on a somewhat metaphysical tangent with concept of Love (Knightley), Time (Mirren) and Death (Latimore) personified. The actors and the universal themes blend nicely on a surface level, but viewers never really get a chance to connect with any of the characters on a deep enough level to care about them to the extent that we cared about Smith’s Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion—also a film that dealt with tragedy. Playing backdrop to the existential main “characters” is the personal tragedy that led Smith’s character on a downward spiral turn in the first place. Much in the way that Smith’s 2008 action-crime drama Hancock had twists and turns, so does Collateral Beauty, but in a more subtle manner.

It's hard to describe the feeling you get when a film pulls you in, captures your attention and, yet, still manages to disappoint—not a lot—but just enough to make you wish and want for more.

With an all-star cast made up of two Academy-Award winners (Mirren and Winslet) and three rock-solid Oscar nominees (Smith, Norton and Knightly), it is clear the reason why Collateral Beauty slightly disappoints is not the acting.

It could be due to the fact that the production was plagued with major casting and creative changes in the weeks leading up to the first “action” ever being called on set. Out was the film’s original director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me, Earl & the Dying Girl) by midsummer because of “creative differences,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. A catalyst to Gomez-Rejon’s exit could have been the film’s original leads, Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara, also stepping away from the project. Jackman reportedly left to concentrate on his commitments to shooting Wolverine 3. Rooney Mara left for less widely-known reasons.

With filmmaker David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) stepping into the director’s seat, Collateral Beauty had all of the elements that call for movie magic—with an expert in the director’s seat, with majestic views of Manhattan and with the aforementioned star power—yet the film doesn't leave you wanting more.

It's good, but not great.

For movie-going new moms and dads: It's pretty heavy material if you are full of all the joys that come with welcoming a brand new infant into the world. The last thing you’d probably want to watch is a film about early childhood tragedy. Save yourself the drama and pick a comedy or rom-com instead this holiday season.

I can, however, see this being a comforting film for parents who have suffered a tragedy of any sort involving an offspring. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that when you are going through a rough time, there are others who can relate to your pain. This film has the potential to do that for grieving movie goers in a (dare I say) entertaining way.

If you do choose to go see it, be prepared to put on your emotional protection of armor if you are sensitive and be open-minded if you are a cynic.

Also important to note: this may not be the best film to bring young children or pre-teens to view. Leave the kids at home and make it a date night or girlfriends outing.

All in all, I would give this film a Mom at the Movies Rating of: 3 out of 5 rattles. One rattle for acting, one rattle for a promising storyline and the last rattle for attempted creativity. It just fell short of blowing me away.

Markette Sheppard is host of Great Day Washington, the lifestyle morning show on WUSA 9. She is also a wife, mother of a rambunctious 3-year-old and avid movie lover. You can see more of her film previews and reviews weekdays at 9am on WUSA 9.