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Demolition: Gyllenhaal Takes on Grieving Oddball Character in Offbeat Drama

  • Chris CooperJake Gyllenhaal...
  • ComedyDrama
  • Jean-Marc Vallée
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Demolition: Gyllenhaal Takes on Grieving Oddball Character in Offbeat Drama

There’s a sense of emptiness that shapes the best bits of Jean-Marc Vallee’s drama, Demolition – the director’s third feature-film which tackles the subjects of loneliness, grief and self-destruction. 

Gyllenhaal returns to the big screen as Davis Mitchell; a successful New York investment banker whose rigid routine is rattled by the death of his wife, whom he loses to a car-accident which he himself survives. Unable to process his emotions, Davis soon starts unravelling, eventually becoming more and more emotionally empty, much to the ire of his boss and father-in-law, Phil (Cooper).

He soon finds a source of catharsis in the form of hospital vending machine, which failed produce the peanut M&M’s he bought shortly after Julia’s death. Davis begins writing complaints to the company – in the form of intimate confessionals about his life – thinking that no one will ever read them. However, when lonely customer care representative, Karen Moreno (Watts), reaches out to him, the two soon form an unlikely friendship.

Demolition is not your every-day movie and it might take a certain type of viewer to be drawn into its world; one that’s filled with visual metaphors and an an sometimes unnecessary need to shock.

There are occasional moments of brilliance, with Vallee giving the film a strong start as audiences are introduced to Davis’ daily routine, which includes impeccable grooming practices, while showing the signs of the impassiveness and detachment that embody hischaracter. But despite Bryan Sipe’s engaging first third of the script, the plot loses its way into the second and third acts, characterised by unnecessary spikes of melodrama and clichés, which deviates the overall feel of the film.

Gyllenhaal instils Davis with plenty of charisma to turn what is at times an objectionable character into someone the audience can relate to and eventually empathise with. The restraint in steering clear of a romantic subplot between Davis and Karen is appreciated and both Watts – as a pot-head single mom dealing with her own losses – and Gyllenhaal sharing an easy chemistry while Cooper is as always, grounded and affective.

Demolition is an oddball of a film and occasionally hard to watch, as a man’s failure to deal with the loss of his wife sees his life unspools in sometimes uncomfortable ways. But for the strong of heart, there’s something here to cling onto and value.

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360 Tip

The script ended up on the 2007 Blacklist; a list of the most liked unmade scripts of the year.    

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