The Hollywood tearjerker is an art form of pure privilege. Your life a little too comfy and bright? Here are some well-paid, attractive people acting out manipulative drivel to get those eyes a-weepin’. At this particular moment in history there are some pretty fucking important things to cry about for real—but here comes Collateral Beauty, a vile shitfleck of a movie that whispers, “No, no, don’t worry about Aleppo; shhh, don’t grieve over the death of American democracy,” then tells you some baloney about dead cancer kids and thrusts a box of tissues into your hand.
What does Collateral Beauty want you to cry about? Will Smith lost his kid to cancer and is super-sad. We know this because his brow is perpetually furrowed and he prepares elaborate domino setups, only to watch them fall. One day he mails physical letters to the abstract constructs of “Death,” “Love,” and “Time,” and his coworkers—Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Peña—decide he’s a little too cuckoo-bananas to be running his very expensive ad agency. They agree to gaslight him, cheat him out of his shares, and sell the company. Per the screenplay’s disgusting logic, they do it out of love.
So the shitty coworkers/friends hire New York’s smallest theater troupe—Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Jacob Latimore—to play the roles of Death, Love, and Time and confront sad, domino-watching Will Smith. The interactions are filmed and then digitally altered to suggest Will Smith is talking to himself. Grieving dad’s sanity questioned, company sold, problem solved!
Except the movie has some stupid tricks up its sleeve (including more cancer), and the shitty coworkers have their own issues to resolve with death, love, and time. “That’s right!” says Collateral Beauty. “Fuck you and take this box of tissues.”