COL­LAT­ERAL DAM­AGED

Will Smith goes off the rails in Col­lat­eral Beauty

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW - WORDS IAN FREER

“IT’S A FAS­CI­NAT­ING chal­lenge,” be­gins David Frankel, direc­tor of Col­lat­eral Beauty. “The movie starts as a broad comedy, then slams into some pretty dra­matic stuff. The plot is kinda from a ’30s film, but at the same time the emo­tions feel ut­terly real. The phrase I use to de­scribe it is ‘screw­ball drama’.” Set in New York just be­fore Christ­mas,

Col­lat­eral Beauty fol­lows ad-agency exec Howard In­let (Will Smith), whose life spi­rals out of con­trol af­ter a tragic event. Sur­round­ing Smith is one of the glossi­est casts of 2016. Ed­ward Nor­ton, Kate Winslet and Michael Peña play In­let’s co-work­ers, try­ing to save their boss and the agency; Helen Mir­ren, Keira Knight­ley and Ja­cob La­ti­more play a troupe of “off-off-broad­way” ac­tors who in­ter­sect with In­let in im­por­tant ways. Frankel de­scribes it as a “lit­tle bit like It’s A Won­der­ful Life meets The Sixth Sense meets A Christ­mas Carol”.

The project was orig­i­nally set to star Hugh Jack­man and be di­rected by Me And Earl And

The Dy­ing Girl’s Al­fonso Gomez-re­jon, be­fore Jack­man’s Wolver­ine com­mit­ments and ‘cre­ative dif­fer­ences’ with Gomez-re­jon saw a change in per­son­nel. Best known for The Devil Wears

Prada, Frankel jumped on board on the strength of the ma­te­rial and the chance to work with Smith.

“If you saw him acting his ass off in a bril­liant fash­ion, auc­tion­ing off trips to Ire­land for the crew on St Pa­trick’s Day and tak­ing an in­fi­nite num­ber of self­ies with neigh­bour­hood kids… It sounds like hy­per­bole, but he is just a non-stop bearer of a kind of celebrity en­light­en­ment.”

Frankel prepped by watch­ing films as di­verse as 1940’s The Philadel­phia Story (“We wanted that sense of char­ac­ters talk­ing fast and try­ing to con­vince them­selves to em­brace their mag­i­cal think­ing”) and 2013’s The Great Beauty (“It was re­ally valu­able in helping cap­ture this fam­ily of char­ac­ters and their con­nec­tion to their place”). The re­sult is the kind of mid-bud­get, grown-up fare we’re told Hol­ly­wood doesn’t make any­more.

“Movies are loud and bom­bas­tic and rarely do you spend time lis­ten­ing to peo­ple talk,” says Frankel. But with a line-up like the one in Col­lat­eral Beauty, it would be rude not to. COL­LAT­ERAL BEAUTY IS IN CIN­E­MAS FROM 26 DE­CEM­BER

Here: Will Smith as Howard In­let. Be­low: Smith with Helen Mir­ren as Brigitte. Bot­tom: Michael Peña and Kate Winslet as Howard’s co-work­ers.

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