Howard (Will Smith) was a creative, advertising executive who then lost his 6 year-old daughter and now over two years later sulks around silently stacking dominos in his office. His business partner Whit (Edward Norton) and co-workers and friends, Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) are also worried for him and their livelihoods as another big client is about to drop them. Fortunately they found themselves a buyer, but the problem is Howard has 60% of the voting power and they need him to sell. So they hire a private investigator Sally Price (Ann Dowd) (the one who caught Whit cheating on his now ex-wife) who follows Howard around, discovering he wrote letters to Love, Death and Time — the three components that he argued were essential in their business. While Whit is at home with his mother who suffers dementia, he gets an idea — that they should play into Howard’s reality and hire actors to be Love, Death and Time and interact with him while the private investigator records him — only to digitally remove the actors to make it look like Howard’s crazy. Whit finds the actors across the street at a theater house who need money for their production. They all agree to take the roles for a mere $20,000, though Aimee / Love (Keira Knightley) is a bit hesitant. Bridgette / Death (Helen Mirren) is thrilled with this opportunity, while Raffi / Time (Jacob Latimore) is ready to count his money. The initial meet ups with Howard have him believing in the manifestations, but he’s also drawn to a support group lead by Madeleine (Naomie Harris.) Will any of these people help Howard move on with life after his daughter’s death?
Like Passengers, Collateral Beauty suffers from a flawed premise that makes pretty much impossible for you to care about the ending. Unlike Passengers, Collateral Beauty is a lot more absurd and requires a lot more leaps just to get going, each one bigger than the last. The whole concept of how Howard’s “friends” plan on framing him as crazy just so that they can get a payday from selling the company is problematic. Sure, they say they have good intentions and hope Howard gets better, but their actions that we see say otherwise. And the leap to get actors to play Love, Death and Time is equally silly. It seems like everyone involved hopes that the sappiness from the resulting moments will make up for the insanity. What is equally frustrating is how this really talented cast agreed to do this movie. At least Helen Mirren seems to get the movie is better played as a comedy. Overall if Howard was a chick who owned a pet this could easily have been mistaken for a Hallmark Channel movie, albeit one with better production values.