Jake Gyllenhaal Delivers The Dramedy in ‘Demolition’: A Movie Review
There has been a lot of death in my life lately. Family members have moved on. One of the things I always struggle with is how to grieve and how to assist those who are grieving. That conundrum is at the crux of the new dramedy Demolition. Written by Brian Sipe, directed by Jean Marc-Vallee (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, Demolition brings destruction to the pain of losing a loved one.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Davis, an uber-successful stock market manager, loses his wife in a tragic car accident in the beginning of the film. That’s not a spoiler, but it sets up the rest of the film as Davis struggles to process her death and his life in the wake of it. He pens a letter to a vending machine company when, while at the hospital finding out his wife has died, he is unable to get some M&M candy out of a machine. That letter leads to others and opens up a relationship with Karen (the increasingly quirky Watts) and her troubled son and boyfriend. All the while, Davis can’t curry favor with his wife’s father who is also his boss, Phil (the usually solid Chris Cooper of American Beauty). How does one deal with the unraveling of his life in the event of great loss?
In Davis’ case, he seeks to blow it all up, hence the title of the film. While secrets are revealed and the drama unfolds, tension must be released and there are a number of laughs to be found in Davis’ sadness. It’s hard to quantify if he takes things too far, that’s why I questioned the premise of how to deal with grief. There is no right or wrong answer and in the confines of the film you can see elements of Crazy Stupid Love crossed with something like American Beauty. While both of those films are good to great in their own right, Demolition never quite reaches those heights.
Gylenhaal is always good and he carries the film, though Watts’ character and their interaction is a bit hard to figure. Marc-Vallee attempts a tricky tightrope that he is pretty successful with but its probably a bit too challenging to pull off in the end with all of the quirk and criss crossing of storylines. The payoff is strong, the film entertaining, but I’m not sure it reaches the loftiest of goals. Not all loose ends are tied up and maybe there is a bit too much going on when we want to focus on the protagonist. Again, when dealing with grief, is it best to accept that demolishing one’s life in Davis’ case is entirely feasible? Perhaps. Still, as an entertainment and thought provoking piece it falls a bit short of greatness. Take that as you will.