April 8, 2016 3:37:36 pm
A Mother high on marijuana, her 15-year-old who smokes openly and has access to guns, and her friend who lets the boy wield a sledgehammer unsupervised. There are many reasons to be worried about the moral centre of Demolition, and none of those concerns the aforesaid friend, played by Gyllenhaal as a vacuous Wall Street type looking for meaning after his wife dies in an accident.
Davis’s (Gyllenhall) search begins with the Customer Service office of a vending machine, after it won’t yield him his M&Ms, at the very hospital where 10 minutes earlier his wife has died. That is as different and interesting place to start as any, particularly when the long letters he writes to the vending machine office — detailing his empty life and strangely numb marriage, now that he thinks about it — draw a response from the woman manning the desk. She turns out to be Karen (Watts), who is impressed with Davis’s “honesty”.
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Even if you let pass how the two meet, all that follows stretches credulity. She welcomes him with open arms into her house, not thinking about the boyfriend/boss who has just skipped town, and lets her son Chris (Lewis) run around unsupervised with this man who obviously has issues. The film itself, directed by Vallee who has had a spectacular run at the Oscars with Dallas Morning Club and Wild, doesn’t know where it should focus — Davis and Chris, or Davis and Karen, with neither of the relationships playing out to any sort of fulfilment.
Then, there is a third relationship, between Davis and his father-in-law Phil (Cooper), who also happens to the co-founder of the firm where Davis works and where he has earned his millions. That includes a glass-walled marital house which, as Karen remarks, should be anyone’s dream.
Needless to say, Davis hates the house, as much as he hates all that the job and father-in-law have brought him, apart from the luxury he has now of not working, that is. With Phil once remarking that “a heart, like things, must be taken apart to be brought together again”, Davis proceeds to buy kits to break things down and, for a while, even takes up work with a demolition crew (hence the film’s name).
Gyllenhaal does the best he can, and is the only reason the film even appears to progressing in a certain direction. He has done this self-mocking, mad-streak roles before, and here one of the least self-indulgent scenes involves him dancing down a street listening to music put together by Chris. The boy, disturbing as his part is, has the most well-defined role in Demolition, but again something you have seen before with its teen angst and anger at a non-existent mother.
Meanwhile, the film talks, and talks. About carousels and merry-go-rounds. About fathers-in-law and an imaginary frog that makes strange appearances. About America’s military policy in the Mideast and a tank that goes up in smoke. And even about life “being a metaphor” — though Davis tears that particular letter apart after realising that line is going nowhere.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis
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