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Demolition (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 26, 2020




Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Heather Lind, Polly Draper, Brendan Dooling, Wass Stevens, C.J. Wilson, Malachy Cleary, Debra Monk, Hani Avital, Royce Johnson, Tom Kemp, Connor Keegan Dosch, Nancy Ellen Shore and Celia Au.

Screenplay by Bryan Sipe.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.  101 minutes.  Rated R.

There is nothing quite so devastating as losing a loved one.  And though sometimes we forget this, there is no one right way to deal with that grief.

Demolition looks at a few people looking at this kind of sudden loss, but most specifically the one main character.  To be honest, he does not handle it well.  Not at all.

That man is Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal, continuing an interesting streak of mentally unstable leading men), a former working class New Jersey kid who married the boss’ daughter and has become an emotionally cut-off Wall Street shark.

We first are introduced to Davis, complete in his business-appropriate designer outfit, driving in his late-model sports car, making vague small-talk with his gorgeous wife.  The conversation seems vaguely antagonistic.  The couple is obviously sort of fighting, but not exactly at each other’s throats.  Honestly, they mostly seem to be saying a whole lot of not much at all.

Of course, if you have seen a movie in recent years, you know that if you are in the middle of a long, seemingly uneventful car ride that does not seem to be moving the storyline forward, it’s almost inevitable that another car will suddenly crash into them.

Suddenly, Davis is a widower.  But he has what seems to most like a very odd reaction to the sudden loss of his wife.  Even Davis can’t quite figure it out.  He appears to be almost numb, feeling nothing.  He watches his father-in-law (an always wonderful Chris Cooper) agonized and bereft, and while Davis knows he should be reacting the same way, he can’t quite bring himself to feel much of anything about anything.

Instead, Davis starts obsessing about minutiae.  While in the hospital, a vending machine cheats him of a candy bar and he writes a long, handwritten letter to the complaint department, giving unnecessary detail about his situation and venting in the letter.  He begins an oddball friendship with the woman who works in the complaint department of the vending machine company (Naomi Watts) and her foul-mouthed but basically good-hearted young son.

Davis starts taking random things apart, feeling that if he can come to understand how things are built he can come to learn how to fix things.  Eventually this escalates to the point where he starts to completely trash his home, going so far to buy a bulldozer to essentially flatten the place.  His professional and personal relations are strained and shredded due to his erratic behavior.

It is pretty disturbing to see someone completely losing their sanity, so the middle section of Demolition can make for some uncomfortable viewing.  Truthfully, the movie comes dangerously close to coming off the rails quite a few times before finally righting itself and earning its heartfelt, somewhat optimistic ending.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: April 8, 2016.

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