Film: Jean-Marc Vallée; Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Polly Draper, Malachy Cleary, Debra Monk and Heather Lind; Rating: **1/2
Germinating from the principle of deconstruction, which doesn’t necessarily mean destroying, “Demolition” is about liberation and soul-searching.
The story revolves around a New York investment banker Davis Mitchell, who after losing his wife Julia in a car accident, realises that he “does not feel sad or anything for that matter”. He also recognises things which he had not seen earlier and everything he sees, he sees as a metaphor.
This realisation works like a wake-up call to the fact that he has been living a meaningless life for the past many years. So the need, to deconstruct everything that is faulty.
And his turmoil begins when he gets fixated with the faulty vending machine at the hospital as it failed to deliver him a packet of peanut M&M.
After his wife’s funeral, he begins to write a series of letters to the vending machine company complaining about their faulty machine. In the process of explaining the machine’s fault, he reveals details of his personal life which borders on catharsis.
Davis’s letters reach Karen Moreno, the customer service representative of the vending machine company, who out of concern reaches out to him. Soon they forge a bond. Karen is drawn in because she has never met anyone as honest as Davis, and Davis is happy because he finally has someone who will listen. Befriending Karen comes with the added challenge of dealing with her rebellious long-haired son, Chris.
Meanwhile, Davis’s obsession to deconstruct reaches gigantic proportions, where he demolishes everything that needs to be repaired. And while battling this mania, Davis shows no signs of distress or loss, thus giving the film an edge, which explores the mundane, yet interesting aspects of life.
Narrated in a fragmented, non-linear manner, Bryan Sipe’s screenplay is confusing and contrived. And the film with its quirky narration, coming from director Jean-Marc Vallee who had earlier given us “Wild” and “Dallas Buyer’s Club”, is a strange and a dissimilar creation, that is neither consistent nor meaningful.
The tone of the script varies from physiological to family to absurd drama and with verbose expositions, the writing seems to cram the subplots. The telling, which starts off on a manipulative note, becomes less interesting and complex, as the film progresses and by the third-act twist, the film falls into an emotional plane that is predictable and routine.
This is not one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best films, nevertheless he has put his heart and soul into Davis. He grabs your attention as he reveals a near-sociopathic deadness to Davis, as he oscillates from a white-collared widower to a blue collared demolition guy.
He is ably supported by Heather Lind as his wife Julia, Chris Cooper as his catalysing father-in-law Phil, Naomi Watts as Karen Morena and Judah Lewis as her son Chris.
Overall, “Demolition” with good performances and brilliant production values is a poorly constructed film that fails to impress.