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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Collateral Beauty (2016) and the Philiosphies of Existence

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Micheal Pena
Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allen Loeb
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Rating: D+

My Thoughts:
Collateral Beauty is a film that could lead to your next existential crisis. 
It’s a film that is quite perceptive when it comes to delving deep into many cosmic abstractions. However, its characters are far from that, resulting in a transparent
 film that strays away from the thought provoking themes it’s characters are 
supposed to be shedding light on.

Will Smith stars as Howard, a successful corporate executive who loses 
his daughter to cancer. Unable to fully accept her death and move on, he 
isolates himself from his friends, family and co-executives, resulting in the decline
 of his business because he also refuses to talk to any of their clients. This man
 is going through severe pain and because of the feel-good nature of the 
trailers, you would think the purpose of the film is about his friends helping him 
get his life back? Well, boy, are you in for a surprise because when he and his
 fellow co-executive friends, played by Kate Winslet, Michael Pena and Edward 
Norton, are offered a great deal of money for their company, they come up with 
a scheme to prove his mental incompetence to the board, so that they will
 have the authority to take they deal without him. They hire three actors to the
 play the roles of three abstractions that Howard has been writing letters to. 
They follow him and engage him in philosophical conversations about
 these abstractions while his co-executive film the entire thing, so they can 
edit the actor out and it’ll look like Howard is talking to himself. However, like
 the 2001 animated film, Waking Life, this film also explores some of the
 concepts that make up our existence on Earth and like Howard, the main 
character in Waking Life goes around having these existential conversations 
with strangers about things like love, dreaming, power and even time.

 “Time” explains that we place too much importance on him and in doing 
so we’re merely wasting it. It feels like there’s not enough time for anything,
 but in actuality we actually have all the time in world. “Death” says that 
everyone is dying. We see it every time we look in the mirror, but ignore it
 until it catches up with us and then we blame it for all our problems. And
 lastly, “Love” states she’s within what makes us happy, but also in how we hurt.
 But how do we deal with love and pain if they’re just two different sides of 
the same coin? What are we supposed to do with all this time we’re supposedly
 wasting? And how do we go on living our lives when we know we’re all to die
 and more importantly, why should we?

There’s no explanation of what we are supposed to do with these things 
which feels like it should be the most important thing because Howard’s
 whole dilemma is that he doesn’t know what to do. We live, find love, 
have a family, watch our children grow up and then we die and the movie uses
 this this as one possible answers to the meaning of life, but none of the 
characters in this film can follow the supposed path for a perfect life. 
Howard’s love has died with his daughter whom he’ll never get to see grow
 up. Michael Pena has cancer and he will ultimately lose the opportunity to
 watch his children grow up, too. Edward Norton is a recent divorcee with a 
daughter who doesn’t want to see him. Kate Winslet has never married, leaving 
her also loveless and without children. All four of them have lost very 
important things, but they refuse to see Howard’s pain even though he’s lost the 
most. These enlightening conversations are supposed to help him find another
 meaning to live, but he doesn’t mainly because the conversations were 
set up for malicious reasons. In the end, Howard accepts his daughter’s 
death, but the film never explores how that actually happened.

 We get the what, when, where, and how, but never the why. The film never 
attempts to actually explain the meaning of life simply because it can’t.
 Collateral Beauty does the same thing as Waking Life, except it actually 
does provide us with one of the possible meanings of life. However, when this 
proves to be untrue for everyone, the film is supposed to give Howard 
another reason to live, but it doesn’t, which just defeats the movie’s purpose.
 While time is one of the film’s most important themes, the film just
 seems like a waste of ours.

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