Demolition: Film Review
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Heather Lind
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Visual subtlety is in short supply in Jean Marc Vallee's Demolition, wherein Jake Gyllenhaal's grieving investment broker literally has to tear his life apart to put it back together again.
Mercifully though, there is a Jake Gyllenhaal performance that enlivens proceedings without resorting to tics and tricks to keep the audience engaged. Charisma here is as obvious as the guy who intones early on that "Everything is a metaphor".
Gyllenhaal plays Davis, whose wife is killed in a smash; he escapes with not a scratch, but starts to wake up from his previous life and behave unusually. Whereas Davis was previously detached from engaging with others, he fixates and forms a friendship with Karen (Naomi Watts) a customer service rep for a vending machine company that Davis has a beef with.
As his resentful father in law Phil (the ever stoic Chris Cooper) tries to get Davis to help create something for his daughter's death, the grief treats him differently and Davis' world changes.
Dallas Buyers' Club director Jean-Marc Vallee relies on his patented looped reflections, backward cuts and dreamlike shots to build this slightly over egged concoction that has as left-field an ending as anything witnessed in 2016's cinematic pantheon.
Mind you, it's to be expected in its treatment of two side characters whose usefulness simply narratively grinds to a halt inside a cliched cul de sac (a son struggling with who he is, played by Lewish and Watts' mother whose connection with all is lost in case you're counting.) It's a shame because the third act's intentions thoroughly derail the narrative train that's been running through - a man in crisis trying to deal with what's around and inside him.
The letters Davis sends to Karen and the vending machine company do an astute job of servicing both exposition and back-story, and add a quirkier edge to proceedings as we watch one man succumb to a degree of sociopathic behaviour, mental illness and incapacity.
There's little predictability in the earlier moments of the film, but these fall by the wayside as the film tries to wrap up what were hitherto nicely disparate threads that bordered on a poignancy into a schmaltzy gooey end.
Certainly, the aforementioned ending does little to complement what has already transpired and feels like a betrayal in many ways, offering a redemption that doesn't feel earned or sought after.
But it's a sensational turn from Gyllenhaal that really anchors Demolition, an eclectic observation of grief and a drama that stands out despite some flaws.