So I watched Demolition…
I’ve been excited to see this movie ever since I saw its trailer late last year. Jake Gyllenhaal is a superb actor and the trailer had a heartfelt, genuine feel to it that I couldn’t resist. Hey, now that Leo’s got his Oscar, can we start a campaign to get Gyllenhaal his, it’s long overdue.
Okay, basic plot: Minutes after the death of his wife, Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) uses a vending machine in the hospital, hoping for some Peanut M&M’s. The machine, however, is faulty and his food gets stuck. Upset, he writes a letter of complaint to the vending machine company. It starts as a simple explanation of his grievance but soon expands to a cathartic examination of his whole life. Davis explains how he’s been merely a passenger in his own life and not an active participant. He becomes obsessed with writing these letters and disassembling various pieces of machinery to figure out how they work. Davis sets out on a journey of destruction in order to rebuild his life.
Gyllenhaal is a master at playing the ‘tortured soul’. His performances are always intense and captivating, and his performance in Demolition is no different. The character of Davis isn’t as gritty as the ones we’ve seen him portray in the past but Gyllenhall still brings that same commitment and humanity to the role. He starts out as this hollow shell of a man who’s defined by his possessions and success and through the course of the movie becomes a genuine person seeking emotional stability. Gyllenhaal draws you in and – does something he manages to do with every character – he makes you care about him. Not care because he’s the protagonist or because the script says so but care because you understand the character and want to invest your emotions in him. He presents the character with great authenticity and heart – you understand his flaws but can see the person he could be and you want him to reach that point.
Naomie Watts stars as Karen – the customer service rep for the vending machine company where Davis has been sending his letters. Karen is also an imperfect character and Watts does a superb job portraying her flaws but also her strengths. Karen comes along with Davis on his journey on self-realisation but not in the way you’d expect. The two share a bond but the film never relegates their companionship to cliche romance. Karen has a son – Chris (brought to life by a strong performance by Judah Lewis) – who – like all the other characters in this movie – has a rich three-dimensional quality. The main characters in this film are all rich and complex with only those on the periphery being stock characters there to facilitate the plot. This makes for rich watching as the different characters all have qualities you can relate to and stories you want to invest in.
I’ve only seen one previous film of this film’s director – Director, Jean-Marc Vallée – but a quick glance at his filmography tells me his particular style. He’s a filmmaker who gives top billing to the story and is willing to give it the time it deserves to play out. Now this works well because it allows the story to have detail and gives the audience a chance to walk each step with the characters. This, unfortunately, does also lead to some dull moments where you feel like the story has run out of steam and you wish things would kickstart again. These moments are few and far between and by the time they come, you’re already too engrossed in the plot and characters to really notice. Bryan Snipe who wrote this film also deserves praise for his genuine and poignant script. This film’s dialogue – especially the contents of Davis’ letters – is haunting and will touch you.
Overall, Demolition is a film that lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s a film about life and how if you don’t work at it, it can pass you by. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a stirring performance and is well supported by Naomie Watts and Judah Lewis. It’s a movie worth watching and one made with real quality and passion. 8/10