Director David Frankel assembled a cast that includes two Oscar winners—Winslet and Mirren—and three nominees: Smith, Norton and Knightley. They are just as good as all that recognition would lead you to expect. Will Smith barely utters a word for the first 30 minutes or so, but he doesn't need to. Anyone who has mourned a lost loved one will recognize the authenticity of his grief. Mirren is another standout (no surprise there), but everyone pulls their weight. It probably helps that the stars have good material to work with. I know some reviewers will heap scorn on this feel-good story (currently 16% on RottenTomatoes), but I found the script to be funny, wrenching, charming, and powerful—often all at the same time. The trailer makes it seem like a simple fairy tale kind of thing, but there are layers upon layers upon layers to this plot... and if you're like me, once the final layer is revealed you'll want to watch it all over again to catch the nuances you missed the first time around.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Howard's friends betray him in a way that seems out of character for people who clearly love their grieving friend. Their actions are actually a little horrifying; the fact that it mostly comes out right in the end does not excuse the lengths they're willing to go. There's also so much going on: we have four storylines to follow and multiple characters to keep up with. Jumping from one story to the next can feel choppy and it's not always easy to remember what's up with each character when their turn comes. As for the title Collateral Beauty: it's 'explained' but not in any way that actually clarifies anything. Maybe I missed the point, but I still couldn't tell you what "collateral beauty" is supposed to be.