In Jean-Marc Vallee’s follow-up to Wild, a widower deals with his wife death by breaking stuff… and that’s pretty much it. Well, with the title DEMOLITION and an accompanying image of Jake Gyllenhaal holding a power tool in a house that’s falling apart, would you expect anything else?
Beyond the surface, there is more to this meditation on dealing with the loss of a loved one. In the movie, Wall Street lemming Davis (Gyllenhaal) loses his wife in a brutal car accident. He is sitting in the hospital when he gets this news and he sits there emotionless. We think he is in shock, but after a while, he still doesn’t have any emotional reaction to the untimely death of his wife. So we wait and watch him buy a bag of peanut M&Ms from the vending machine — but they get stuck. So he writes a complaint note to the vending machine company, which serves as a bizarre emotional outlet. The first letter leads to another…and then another. Until the customer service rep finally contacts him and he develops a friendship with her and her son. All the while, his relationship with his in-laws deteriorates as he ignores their attempt to start a scholarship fund for his late wife and he picks up the hobby of breaking stuff. He starts small and then eventually bulldozes his own house.
Screenwriter Bryan Sipe writes a notable script that has a foundation of an interesting character that has a borderline sociopathic man. It starts off fairly strong, but along the way it loses steam and then realizes that it needs a resolution so it cobbles one together that satisfies the characters more than the audience.
Gyllenhaal gets the job done as the aforementioned borderline sociopath. There’s a noble amount of quiet insanity in his Davis and he carries the movie well. It’s the perfect bookend to his “tortured-damaged-man-dealing-with-his-emotions-in-a-reckless-manner” trilogy (Nightcrawler being the first installment, Southpaw being the second).
As for the rest of the ensemble, they provide more characters that are there to try to pump emotion out of Davis. Chris Cooper plays his stern, yet concerned father-in-law (nothing really new there for Cooper), while Naomi Watts is sidelined as the customer service rep she befriends. But it’s her troubled son, played by Judah Lewis that provides Davis with the most solace.
The film meanders and seems to be more focused on selling us Gyllenhaal as crazy instead of giving us a solid story to chew on. We don’t need to be sold on the fact that Gyllenhaal is a good actor. We just need a good Gyllenhaal film (like Nightcrawler). This one has its moments, but it ultimately comes crumbling down to the ground in a messy rubble.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer