Will Smith has been primarily known for his action movies over the years, but the actor has been able to show a lot of range in there as well. He’s taken roles that deviated from the standard popcorn fare he was associated with earlier in his career, sometimes exploring some deeper themes along the way. One of those movies is available to stream on Netflix right now and gives something of a different view of the actor. You have the chance to check out Smith in Collateral Beauty on the streaming platform after it dropped there this week.
In Collateral Beauty Will Smith plays Howard Inlet, a man struggling mightily after the death of his young daughter. He’s become a shell of his formal self, spending his days and nights alone in mourning and generally pulling himself away from the people in his life as well as his business. He also spends his time doing something else, something that is meant to stay private and possibly is therapeutic. He’s writing letters to fictional versions of Love, Death, and Time. Not expecting these letters to ever be read, he mails them anyway.
Those in his life, wanting to help him but also having some business dealings in mind as well, things that Will Smith as Howard is no longer emotionally equipped for, they instead decide to hire people to play these characters of Love, Death and Time, hoping to confront Howard individually a la Christmas Carol style in some way to make him realize that life is still worth living. Here, check out the trailer for Collateral Beauty.
You can see that conceptually, Collateral Beauty is meant to go for a somber, yet artistic approach to the subject matter. In fact, from the trailer, it really seems like it should work in a big way. The themes are broad but can cut deep. Will Smith as the struggling father, grieving the loss of his daughter looks the part and the cast is top-notch. In fact, this is one of the better ensembles you’ll see in any film.
Joining Will Smith in the cast of Collateral Beauty is a veritable who’s who of Hollywood. There’s Edward Norton as his business partner and his other friends are played by Kate Winslet and Michael Pena. That would almost be enough to call the cast all-star. But it doesn’t stop there. Playing those three of Love, Death and Time are Kiera Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Jacob Latimore respectively.
And it didn’t just stop there. With Will Smith starring, David Frankel was behind the lens as the director. Previous movies on his resume had included Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada. He followed them up later with The Big Year and Hope Springs. He’d had experience in tugging on the heartstrings and working with solid casts before to great returns.
So everything is lining up for this to be a smash Will Smith hit right? Great cast with top-tier talent across the board and a director who can handle this material. But something happened along the way and it didn’t all quite come together. Critics were very tough on Collateral Beauty with the film coming in at a very (very) low 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and 23 on Metacritic. Many were quick to praise the casting and overall performances as well as the visual imagery. But in their minds, the story really fell down.
It’s a shame that the critics saw this movie this way considering when it came out it was likely seen initially as a possible award turn for Will Smith. Considering the gravity of the cast and the story arc, there were big expectations. Obviously, they fell well short. But some of those expectations factored in here with critics being overly harsh. For all of its problems, and there are some, this is far from a bottom-of-the-barrel movie like the scores would suggest.
I still think it’s very much worth it to check out this Will Smith movie. Conceptually, there are definitely parts that work and an emotional leveling that is relatable to those who’ve dealt with loss. From that perspective, an audience exists who can take it in and definitely get something out of the narrative. Is it perfect and award-winning? No, of course not. But seeing Will Smith bring some emotion with an all-star cast is still something to think about checking out on Netflix.