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Collateral Beauty is a 2016 American drama film directed by David Frankel and written by Allan Loeb. The film stars an ensemble cast of Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Naomie Harris. It follows a man who copes with his daughter's death by writing letters to time, death and love, his co-workers then pay actors to play these parts to save their company and own future.

The film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival on December 13, 2016, and was released in the United States on December 16, 2016. It received negative reviews from critics and has grossed $29 million worldwide.

Plot

Successful advertising executive Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is reduced to a clinically depressed loner after his young daughter's tragic death. His estranged friends and business partners, Whit Yardshaw (Edward Norton), Claire Wilson (Kate Winslet), and Simon Scott (Michael Peña) fear for Howard's mental health as well as their company's future, as Howard's erratic behavior has cost them numerous high-profile clients and left them on the verge of bankruptcy; as the majority shareholder, Howard has also undermined their efforts to sell the company.

The trio hires a private investigator, Sally Price (Ann Dowd), to acquire evidence that Howard is unfit to run the company, allowing them to take control. Sally intercepts Howard's letter about abstract concepts of Love, Time, and Death, and presents them to Whit, Claire, and Simon. They hire a trio of struggling actors - Amy (Keira Knightley), Raffi (Jacob Latimore), and Brigitte (Helen Mirren) - to masquerade as Love, Time, and Death to confront Howard about his letters. Their plan is for Sally to record these encounters and then digitally erase Amy, Raffi, and Brigitte to make Howard appear mentally unbalanced, enabling them to sell the company.

In preparation for their roles, Amy, Raffi, and Brigitte spend time with Whit, Claire, and Simon, who are going through personal problems of their own: Whit is struggling to reconnect with his teenage daughter Allison Yardshaw (Kylie Rogers) after cheating on her mother, leading to a divorce; Claire is looking for sperm donors to conceive a child after neglecting her private life for years; and Simon is battling cancer in secret from his wife and newborn son. Meanwhile, Howard reluctantly begins attending a grief support group and befriends Madeleine (Naomie Harris), who has lost her daughter Olivia to cancer, which led to the end of her marriage. She shares with Howard a note from her husband wishing they could be strangers once again, claiming he's finally got his wish.

Brigitte, Raffi, and Amy separately approach Howard, but Amy falters, repentant over manipulating Howard. Whit attempts to convince her to return, and also voices his romantic interest in her, but Amy rejects him and only agrees to commit to their plan if Whit commits himself to making amends with his daughter, Allison. He then visits Allison at school and although she refuses to speak to him, he professes his love for her and vows to return every day until she talks to him, touching Allison, who welcomes Whit back into her life. Simon likewise confides with Brigitte about his condition and his fear of death, and she encourages him to share the burden with his family, which Simon ultimately does, being comforted by his wife.

Amy, Raffi, and Brigitte confront Howard once again, and he lashes out at them, particularly Amy, externalizing the pain he held inside since his daughter's death. Amy pointedly tells Howard he owes his daughter's existence to love and can't live without it, which inspires Howard to reach out to Madeleine once again. She speaks of the day that Olivia died, in which an old woman at the hospital told her about the "Collateral Beauty," the acts of selfless kindness that result from tragedies.

The following day, Howard attends a meeting with his company's board of directors in which Whit, Claire, and Simon present the footage of his encounters with Amy, Raffi, and Brigitte, without them in the shot. Howard realizes that the video makes him appear mentally unfit to run things and signs over the company, while also voicing his gratitude for all that his friends have done for him, and promising to be there in their times of need. Claire confides with Raffi that she gave up on becoming a mother, but Raffi assures her of her capacities and that she still has time to make her decision, subtly revealing himself to be the entity of "Time."

Howard visits Madeleine and is invited into her house, where Madeleine persuades him to watch a video of her husband playing with their daughter, who turn out to be Howard and Olivia. Grief had separated Howard from Madeleine, and she agreed to them becoming strangers once again as he had wished. Howard finally acknowledges his daughter's name and condition, and they make amends and rebuild their relationship. Later, while Howard and Madeleine are walking through the park, Howard notices Amy, Raffi, and Brigitte proudly observing them. When Madeleine looks, however, they are gone, while Brigitte, who in reality is the entity "Death," is shown to be the woman that first told Madeleine about the Collateral Beauty.

Cast

Production

On May 13, 2015, it was announced that Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara would star in the New York-set drama Collateral Beauty, to be directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Allan Loeb. Loeb wrote the script on spec, saying, "It’s something that I’ve meditated on for a couple of years, the idea of someone who’s been through a terrible loss, and was angry and twice destroyed and wrote letters to the Universe. I didn’t know why or how or what that meant for years, but it wouldn’t leave me alone." Michael Sugar and Bard Dorros were set to produce through their Anonymous Content banner. On June 9, 2015, PalmStar Media's Kevin Frakes came on board to produce and fully finance the film, and Likely Story was also on board to co-produce the film, with Loeb also producing. On June 15, 2015, Variety reported that Jason Segel was in talks to join the cast. On July 15, 2015, it was announced that Jackman had exited the project due to his commitment with 20th Century Fox's Logan film, and producers were eyeing Johnny Depp to star instead.

On August 4, 2015, Will Smith was cast to play the lead, replacing Jackman, while Smith's Overbrook Entertainment was set to also produce the film. On September 8, 2015, it was announced that New Line Cinema had come on board to handle worldwide distribution for the film, while Mara had left the project. On October 5, 2015, director Gomez-Rejon exited the film due to creative differences with the studio. On November 10, 2015, it was announced that David Frankel was nearing a deal to direct the film. On December 1, 2015, Variety reported that Helen Mirren was in early talks to join the cast, with filming expected to begin early 2016 in New York City. On January 14, 2016, TheWrap reported that Edward Norton, Michael Peña, and Naomie Harris were cast in the film, while Rachel McAdams was in negotiations to join as well. Village Roadshow Pictures was set to co-finance the film. On February 9, 2016, Keira Knightley joined the film, and Kate Winslet was also cast, the next day. Enrique Murciano was spotted filming along with Winslet, while Jacob Latimore also joined the film. On March 10, 2016, Ann Dowd signed on to co-star.

Soundtrack

In November 2016, it was confirmed that OneRepublic's song "Let's Hurt Tonight" was part of the soundtrack album; a music video for the song was released on December 6, 2016.

Filming

Principal photography on the film began on February 22, 2016, in New York City, where filming also took place in Queens and Manhattan. On March 10, 2016, filming took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Release

Collateral Beauty was released by Warner Bros. on December 16, 2016.

Box office

As of December 26, 2016, Collateral Beauty has grossed $18.1 million in the United States and Canada and $11.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $29.6 million, against a production budget of $36 million.

The film was released alongside Rogue One and the wide expansion of Manchester by the Sea, and was initially expected to gross $11–13 million from 3,028 theaters in its opening weekend, on par with Smith's 2015 drama Concussion. It made $2.4 million on its first day, lowering weekend projections to $7.5 million. It ended up grossing $7.1 million, finishing 4th at the box office and marking the lowest opening of Will Smith's career.

Critical response

Collateral Beauty was panned by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 13%, based on reviews from 114 critics, with an average rating of 3.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Well-meaning but fundamentally flawed, Collateral Beauty aims for uplift but collapses in unintentional hilarity." Metacritic gives the film an average score of 23 out of 100, based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.

Vince Mancini of Uproxx criticized the film for its misleading trailers and dialogue, writing, "Edward Norton’s character tells Keira Knightley’s about holding his now-estranged daughter (he’s a workaholic!) in his arms for the first time. 'It wasn’t that I felt love, it was that I felt like I had become love.' And I am become vomit, the regurgitator of worlds." Richard Roeper gave the film one out of four stars, saying, "Collateral Beauty is a fraud. It is built on a foundation so contrived, so off-putting, so treacly, the most miraculous thing about this movie is this movie was actually made."

Accolades

Award Category Recipients Result
Hollywood Film Awards Hollywood Breakout Performance Award Naomie Harris (also for Moonlight) Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Will Smith Pending

Home media

Transcript

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