This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
We are currently in the heart of Oscar season and that means – gone are the explosions, superheroes, and gratuitous gun-play. And in are the dramatic, thought provoking films, that showcase great performances, deliver emotionally charged and insightful stories, and first up for myself was “Collateral Beauty”. “Collateral Beauty” is directed by David Frankel and stars; Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris and Jacob Latimore.
The story in this film follows Howard, he’s a successful advertising executive who after a suffering a tragic loss has withdrawn from his life, his friends, and career. He stacks dominoes for days in his office only to tip them over and leave, not even watching them fall as his friends and colleagues are left to worry about the future of the company. Howard spends his nights alone writing letters. Not to people however, he writes to love, time, and death, three things he views as constants in human life.
He never thinks anything will come from the letters he mails, but when he begins to receive answers to them, Howard starts to slightly question his sanity as he continues to cope with his loss. As the responses to his letters continue to interject themselves in his life, he will begin to discover the connection of these thoughts and emotions and how they together form what life is all about.
This film turned out to be pretty much what I was expecting, only much more emotionally capturing. The layers of this story weave together a captivating journey filled with tragedy and acceptance, and it effectively explored life as a whole, and how with many great losses in life has come heart-warming memories before them.
The cast in this film is fantastic from top-to bottom, it’s loaded with skilled actors who are all utilized excellently in this script. Often, when you see a cast on paper and then watch the film you think, this person or that were wasted or not used to their potential. But not in this film. The performances were amazing and with some very tightly written dialogue they all create characters you can connect with. They all pull off the emotional needs of their roles and you can really feel the impact of what each character is going through in their life.
I wasn’t sure if this was going to try and be an Oscar shot for Will Smith, he was so good in “Concussion” last year and with this film he is certainly at the top of his game once again. But while he was the focal point of this story, he turned out be an excellent piece, of an amazing puzzle. Smith conveys all the role needed of him, and you can truly feel his pain in many scenes, but with the structure of this script, he did really dominate it enough for what I think the Oscar voters will want to see.
There was an even balance among all the characters and it was simply compelling to sit back and watch, taking in the scope of the story and peeling back the layers of the films message. Edward Norton and Kate Winslet were awesome as well and they showcase their talents, as does the entire cast. They also all create some strong chemistry and it results in some emotionally engaging conversations throughout the story between all the various character dynamics.
The message in this film was an insightful one and very well done. The direction from David Frankel was excellent in a subtle way as he perfectly frames up each conversation with a nice selection of settings. This script is able to tell an emotional story while never feeling like its intentionally trying to tug on your heart strings. It keeps its focus and delivers a seamless balance of drama and subtle humor and with a swift pace it never gets boring and keeps its grip on your attention.
I think this was the best acted film I have seen this year from a cast as a whole. This movie was successful in what it wanted to do. It took a group of talented actors and gave them very good material to work with, and it was a very enjoyable film. I’m just not sure if it was as profound enough of a script needed to give it some Oscar buzz, but we’ll see.
To me this film inspires you to appreciate your life as you live it, not to take time for granted, and that despite the tragedies we will all face in our future, without them, we wouldn’t have a life of great memories before them.
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