Taking place around the holidays, the whole thing carries a whiff of “A Christmas Carol,” with the three visitors echoing the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. The trailer also indicates that this could be a modern-day “It’s a Wonderful Life,” with its blend of real-world problems and festive sorcery. And the story seems so clearly engineered to make viewers cry.
But guess what? That’s not what the movie is about. At all. It comes out today, so it would benefit would-be movie-goers to know the truth. And don’t yell at me about spoilers; I’m only giving away what happens at the beginning of the movie.
Love, Death and Time are not angels. They’re actors, and they’re paid tens of thousands of dollars to mess with Howard’s mind. He runs an ad agency and owns 60 percent of the company, but business is down since so many of the accounts rely on personal relationships with Howard, and Howard has been a shell of his former charismatic self since his daughter passed away. His three best “friends” (played by Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Kate Winslet), who are also his co-workers, want to sell the company, but they know Howard won’t agree. So they hire the actors to have conversations with the grieving man.
The schemers plan to film the interactions then edit out the three actors to make it look like Howard is crazy (while also making Howard think he’s crazy), so that they can take over his company and make a fortune from the sale. This icky behavior is softened somewhat by the fact that each of the friends is going through his or her own struggles with love, death and time (the concepts, not the fake people).
“Collateral Beauty” isn’t the first movie trailer to mislead viewers. It isn’t even the first holiday movie to do that. “The Family Stone,” for example, looked like a lively romantic comedy from the teaser, only to turn out to be a cancer movie featuring some very bitter people.
Of course, false advertising doesn’t necessarily mean a movie will be bad, but the fact remains that the “Collateral Beauty” trailer is a glaring case of bait-and-switch. If the movie still sounds appealing, then by all means, go see it. But it’s only fair that you know what exactly you’re getting into.