Film Review: COLLATERAL BEAUTY (USA 2016)

collateralbeauty_movie_poster.jpgCOLLATERAL BEAUTY (USA 2016) **
Directed by David Frankel

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley

Review by Gilbert Seah

The subject of coping with death has been dealt in dozens of ways in films. In the recent ARRIVAL, the death of Amy Adam’s daughter is tied into the main plot of alien arrival. This worked. In another space film GRAVITY, the Sandra Bullock character is given the grief of a dead child to humanize her character. The ploy did not work and the story looked totally fake. In the recent praised MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, Casey Affleck’s character comes to terns with death in a gut-wrenching emotional tale of redemption. In David Frankel’s COLLATERAL BEAUTY based on a script by Allan Roeb, Will Smith’s character finally accepts his daughter’s death with all the sugar coating of all the Christmas cakes in a pastry shop. Despite attempts to make the story believable, COLLATERAL BEAUTY is plain horrid!

When the trailer for COLLATERAL BEAUTY first appeared on the internet, Guardian Magazine came out with an article heralding the arrival of the worst movie of 2016. And understandably so! The trailer showed Will Smith as a man grieving the death of his daughter by writing letters to Death, Time and Love. Scenes that follow show the personifications of these abstractions with Smith speaking to each of them, played by Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore and Keira Knightley respectively. The music and mood are sloppy sweet sugary, especially catered for Christmas. Who would want to watch such Hollywood bulls***? There is one word for all this, in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge – HUMBUG!

But the film is not all that bad. The reason that Death, Time and Love are in the story, actors playing the parts, is to fool Howard Inlet (Smith) so that he can be deemed mentally unfit to hold on to his shares and thus prevent his firm from being sold. So three employees, who have worked with Howard since the incident of his daughter’s death, Whit (Edward Norton), Simon (Michael Pena) and Claire (Kate Winslet) plot the scheme. But this not not mean that the film is all that good either.

Director Frankel who directed THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA knows how to set up scenes. The first 10 minutes of PRADA when Meryl Streep, the no-nonsense head of the Prada office strides in – to the total disarray of all the other scattering employees is one unforgettable, beautifully executed scene. There are a few of these in COLLATERAL BEAUTY, like the confrontation scene between Howard and Time on the subway train, but the individual set-ups do not work on the whole. The metaphor of the falling dominoes is used to the maximum of a ridiculous three times. The film eventually settles to boredom as it is hard to care for characters made so unbelievable.

It is a complete waste to see Oscar Winners Winslet and Mirren in this silly story. Mirren does bring a bit of dignity into this nonsense but she must be laughing her head off, off screen.

The film partly works when it pokes fun at the credibly of the story. When Howard looks shocked at the sudden appearance of Death, Time and Love, the shock looks genuine – probably because of genuine disbelief. The film is the worst when Howard pines over his dead daughter – the worst of the worst has him watching a video of him playing with her, when she was still alive in a park, and shouting… “Daddy, daddy!” If this scene was not so obviously manipulative, it might have jerked a tear or two from a few of an innocent audience.

There is a twist in the plot at the end which makes no sense to the whole story of what Howard is going through.

Christmas brings along good films – Oscar contenders. But it also brings the worst of Hollywood films – COLLATERAL BEAUTY being one of them.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isQ5Ycie73U

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Happy Birthday: Naomie Harris

naomieharris.jpgNaomie Harris

Born: September 6, 1976 in London, England, UK

Everything starts in the writing, and getting more and more women’s perspective in the writing will have a huge impact on the quality of films we get. At the moment, we don’t really see women as we see ourselves and as we really are because it’s only men writing for us. I’ve read a lot of scripts where I’ve thought: “No women would ever say that! No woman would ever behave like that!” Women are put into these categories of bitch, mother or sex symbol. If we had more women writing we would have a more realistic representation of what it’s like to be a woman.

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MIAMI VICEMiami Vice
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OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (UK/France 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

our_kind_of_traitor.jpgOUR KIND OF TRAITOR (UK/France 2016) ***

Directed by Susanna White

Starring: Carlos Acosta, Radivoje Bukvic, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris, Ewan McGregor

Review by Gilbert Seah

The new John Le Carre film scripted by Hossein Amini is a spy thriller quite different from what audiences have seen in the past. The main character is now an academic, Perry Makepeace, played by Ewan McGregor. McGregor appears in more relaxed Mode compared to Richard Burton, Alec Guinness or Gary Oldman in THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and SOLDIER, TAILOR, TINKER, SPY respectively. This is not necessarily a bad thing as White’s treatment of Le Carre’s material has a more feminine – more human touch. This is a huge contrast to the last major Le Carre film adaptation by Tomas Alfredson, the chilling and excellent SOLDIER, TAILOR, TINKER SPY.

The story here is simple and much more straight forward compared to the extremely hard to follow SOLDIER, TAILER, TINKER, SPY. After Perry is offered a tennis game by Russian mafioso, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), he is ‘recruited’ by him to help him and his family defect. A sort of mixed STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and TORN CURTAIN Hitchcockian story, White’s film plays well blending the cold blooded spy game with a more human aspect. With this main plot, the story weaves in some choice bits of political debate.

Director White is quick to point out that it is not only the Russian mob that are the bad guys in the movie. There is also something very nasty within the British Intelligence as there is in every character in the story. Even Perry is a philandering husband and not one to make his long suffering wife, Gail (Naomie Harris) happy as she is one to point out the faults of her partner. But surprisingly, both Perry and Gail have a change of heart to protect Dima at all costs. In the process their marriage is saved.
As in a Le Carre story, fans will not be disappointed with the plot twists, swift cold blooded killings, car chases and exotic locations, in this case Marrakech, the Alps and the cities of London and Moscow. The film has the look of the spy thrillers of the 60’s and 70’s. But the Carre story is updated with modern technology such as the downloading of key information (bank account numbers) into a usb memory stick.

The humour is also slick. When asked by Perry the reason he was picked, Dima’s reply was that he was the only one left in the restaurant. But a good pick Perry is. A lot of the humour is also derived from Dima’s behaviour – how he changes from kindness shown to his family to cold brutality.

The film contains a few outstanding performances that make the movie. Among them are Stellan Skarsgard’s flamboyant and hyper ex-Russian mafioso Dima and Damian Lewis’ Hector who starts off following British red tape and ends up fighting against it. Jeremy Northam (PRIEST, THE WINSLOW BOY) has a cameo as Aubrey Longriegg, a treacherous British politician.

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR is a milder but still entertaining Le Carre thriller.

 

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