The movie Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith and an ensemble cast of Oscar Award winners and nominees, was marketed as a modern day Christmas Carol. But is it really the feel-good movie of the holidays?
Some reviews would have you think that the film can teach some valuable yogic principles. But most feel like the movie simply tried to hard to tug at the heartstrings and utterly failed in its attempt to teach abstract principles to find joy and happiness in the face of tragedy.
Three Christmas Angels
In Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Ebineezer Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Christmas Yet-To-Come who helped him change his miserly ways.
In Collateral Beauty, which opened in US theatres on Dec. 16, Howard (Smith), a New York City advertising executive was visited by the angels of Love (Keira Knightly), Death (Helen Mirren), and Time (Jacob Latimore) because he had been writing them letters after losing his six year old daughter to cancer three years prior. But not all is as it seems.
The three angels were actually small time theatre actors who were hired by Howards friends and business partners (played by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, and Michael Peña) who conspired to make it look as if Howard was going insane so they could sell the company without his input.
While the deception seems heartless and cruel, especially coming from Howard’s so-called closest friends, the movie showed that the three were also dealing with their own stuggles with love, death, and time. Their plan was supposedly done out of desperation at their own situations and not out of apathy towards Howard’s loss.
The movie, being a holiday film afterall, allows Howard to find beauty even in the face of extreme tragedy. Some have even commented that they interpreted the end of the film to imply that the three actors were actually real angels the whole time.
END OF SPOILERS.
More Damaged Than Beautiful
The review of the film on Roger Ebert felt that the star-studded cast was a resut of over-compensating for a cheap, Hallmark movie-esque script. Ouch.
Yoga Journal was one of the few publications that thought audeinces, especially those who want to learn more about yoga philosophy, should give Collateral Beauty a chance.
According to Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman, who wrote the sponsored article, the movie touched upon yogic principles concerning the joy found at the other side of grief, death, suffering, and pain.
She also highlighted the fact that Smith’s father was diagnosed with cancer during filming. As the actor researched Buddhist teachings with books like the Tibetan Book of The Dead to prepare for the role, he shared what he read with his father.
Smith’s father passed away while the movie was being made. His loss on screen as Howard was very real.
“Howard was trying to solve his problems with his mind. He thought he could think his way through this problem, and what he realized is he had to bleed, he had to suffer, he had to mourn, he had to let it go, and when he finally had the opportunity to just release and let it all go, the collateral beauty was the joy that he was seeking in the first place,” Smith said at a press conference to promote the movie.
A New “It’s A Wonderful Life” For Yogis?
Should yoga enthusiasts see Collateral Beauty? While it would have been nice to have a new movie that teaches yogic principes become a modern day version of A Christmas Carol or even It’s A Wonderful Life, this movie does not seem destined to become a holiday classic.
At its best, it is a movie that simply tried too hard to be a tear-jerker. At its worst, the story is a careless treatment of the theme at its very core: grief.
Matt Goldberg of Collider did not mince words when he wrote a scathing review, saying that the film completely disrespects parents who have experienced the loss of a child.
“Rather than take the mature approach and show that some sadness is insurmountable no matter how hard we try, Collateral Beauty offers the biggest load of horseshit by pretending that if we simply confront abstract ideals and acknowledge our pain, then healing isn’t that far away,” he wrote.
Yes, abstract yogic ideals of accepting impermanence and letting go can be helpful in the path towards healing. But sadly, Collateral Beauty failed to deliver this message in a way that still honored and respected the pain of anyone who suffered the loss of a loved one.