Every holiday season, it seems, there’s at least one movie that perfectly captures the meaning and spirit of the season, turning it into a must-see holiday film for the whole family. This year’s pick is likely going to be “Collateral Beauty,” which stars Will Smith and a host of other big-name Hollywood stars in a sentimental holiday drama. There are six big reasons why “Collateral Beauty” will be a perfect holiday watch.
Reason #1: The A-list cast
It’s hard to say no to a movie that includes two Oscar winners (Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren) and three Oscar nominees (Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton). This is the biggest A-list cast of the holiday season. And we all know that Will Smith is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood right now, so if you’re a fan of great acting, this film is for you.
In many ways, this choice of casting is reminiscent of another winter holiday favorite – “Love Actually,” which also features a number of big-time actors and actresses including, you guessed it, the same absolutely wonderful Keira Knightley who also appears in “Collateral Beauty.” So there’s something very promising about having such a great big-name ensemble cast.
Reason #2: The New York holiday setting
In much the same way that the London setting of “Love Actually” was one of the “unofficial” stars of the movie, it looks like the New York setting of “Collateral Beauty” is also going to have a huge starring role in the movie. There are the classic New York street scenes from the holidays – beautiful brownstone buildings with snow piled up outside, twinkly Christmas lights everywhere, and the energy and emotion of the holidays of “the city that never sleeps.”
As an added bonus, it looks like Will Smith rides his bicycle over the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge on a regular basis – so get ready for some sweeping panoramic views of the city!
Reason #3: A feel-good story with a holiday message
“Collateral Beauty” is the story of redemption, about a man (Howard Inlet, played by Will Smith) who had everything – a family, a career as a successful New York advertising agency owner – and then lost it when his young daughter died. So Howard Inlet searches for meaning in his life – what he refers to as “What is your why?”
As Inlet sees it, there are only three eternal forces at work in the world – Love, Time and Death – and it’s his job to understand how these forces interact to drive meaning in our lives. He soon starts writing messages to Love, Death and Time, trying to figure out how his life fell apart with the death of his child.
But it’s not a weepy movie – it’s a feel-good story with an upbeat holiday message. Howard Inlet begins to understand how all the forces of the universe – especially Love, Death and Time – interact, and how every loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty. In short, instead of “collateral damage,” there is “collateral beauty.”
Reason #4: A movie you can take the whole family to
During the holiday season, it’s sometimes hard to find a movie that the whole family will enjoy. Some will prefer dramas, and others will prefer romantic comedies. This film appears to have it all.
The youngest members of the family will see “Collateral Beauty” as a type of Charles Dickens-inspired “A Christmas Carol,” in which people find out the true meaning of Christmas. Others will focus on the acting skills of this uniquely talented ensemble cast, and still others will hone in on the New York storyline. In short, this film has something for everyone.
Reason #5: The timeless and eternal themes
The fact is, we’ve all experienced a loss of some kind, and we’ve all struggled to make sense of the conflicting feelings of pain, loss and suffering. So, in many ways, this film could be wonderfully cathartic – a way to get over this loss by seeing the big picture of how the world works, and what “meaning” in life really is all about.
The fact that Will Smith’s character focuses so much on Love, Time and Death is the biggest clue that this film is going to help us ponder the meaning of life and what our role is in this life. This may be a sentimental holiday drama, but it’s also one that gets to the heart of timeless and eternal themes. If you were developing a script for a holiday film, it’s hard to think of three themes that are more apt than the ones in “Collateral Beauty.”
Reason #6: The humorous plot twists
Every great movie that considers the big issues in life also needs some moments of comedic relief. This is a plot device that dates back all the way to Shakespeare, who knew how to intersperse jesters and figures of comic relief within tales of deep tragedy and woe. This is not to say that “Collateral Beauty” is going to remind you of Shakespeare, but it does have a potentially very funny plot device – an attempt by the members of Howard Inlet’s advertising agency to convince Howard that he is actually interacting with real-life personifications of Love, Time and Death.
This, of course, is where the remarkably talented Helen Mirren really shines. She plays “Death,” trying to convince Howard Inlet that he is actually talking to the personification of Death. And, as Howard Inlet is heard saying in the film trailer, “I met death, and she’s an elderly white woman.” The director of the film, David Frankel, also directed “The Devil Wears Prada,” so you can get an idea of the type of humor to expect from “Collateral Beauty.”
It looks like New Line Cinema has a real holiday hit on its hands. While some of the initial reviews have not been as ecstatic as originally anticipated, it looks like the combination of all these factors – the A-list ensemble acting list, the New York holiday setting, the feel-good holiday story, the eternal themes like love, and the light comic moments – will turn this into the must-see holiday film of 2016. If you subscribe to a Comcast cable TV package, you can check out Collateral Beauty when it airs on TV.