You’ve been played. 100%.
I’m sure you think you know how this story plays out, but you’re wrong. The commercials have been lying to you. As much as this is about Will Smith, he’s not the main character, and that’s not even the half of it.
Those abstract ideas from the trailer—Love, Death, and Time—aren’t spirits. They’re actors hired to play the roles. Will Smith’s coworkers are not concerned about him, they’re worried that his spiral into depression is going to tank the company. The woman they hire to track him takes phone videos in portrait orientation, which may be the biggest sin of all.
I knew this going in because I read what other critics had to say, but I still feel tricked. Collateral Beauty is about a lot of things, some actually kind of touching, but it’s chiefly about using the people you love. Every character goes on a journey, which is good, and the performances are totally committed. Whoever arranged the dominos in this film should win a prize. Everything, really, is good—except for the story at the heart of it, which used to be considered the most important part.
Oh, and there are a few plot twists at the end that really don’t make sense to me. One of them seems like too much of a coincidence, one like a sick illusion, and one that literally seems impossible. I think the filmmakers are just trying to screw with us.
There’s a moment early on in the film, where Whit (Edward Norton) figures out that the only way to treat an insane person is to embrace their reality. Play their game and have a little fun with it. If you do that with this film, you might like it, but if you don’t… I swear, you’re going to feel as miserable as many of the people in this film.
Collateral Beauty is in theaters now.