Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Judah Lewis, Chris Cooper
Whenever you get a (or another) chance to watch Jake Gyllenhaal in his element- grasp it.
Jake Gyllenhaal used to be typecast in romantic comedies, where his rather brooding demeanor didn't quite mesh with the demands of the genre. Donnie Darko was where he really made full use of his talent, but the industry at the time didn't recognize it, owing to the film's lack of commercial success. Only after success of Jarhead, End of Watch (amazing film- do check it out), and Nightcrawler- where he plays a really creepy slimeball that tries to carve his own little slice of the American Dream.
So the question is, does Demolition capitalize on everything that is great about Gyllenhaal?
The answer is a bit of both.
Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Davis Mitchell, a high flying financier whose life is turned upside down when his wife dies in a car crash in which Davis miraculously survives. Whilst at the hospital waiting for news of his wife, he decides to buy some lollies from a vending machine, which malfunctions- this prompts Davis to initially write a letter of complaint to the customer service of the company that makes those vending machines, then slowly decides to tell his entire personal life via these letters. A woman on the other end, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) reads these letters and begins to sympathise, and over time they begin to strike up a friendship, which helps Davis to find a new lease on life.
A story about grief, coming to terms with it, is an universal one, with many films (and other works of art) having their own take on the subject matter, each with a varying degree of success and failure. I liked Demolition in the way how it handles its material without falling into tropes and cliches- the catharsis is there- in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal literally revelling in an anarchic moment of destroying his middle class trappings- from which the title derives its name.
In this way (and to sound like a complete ponce), Demolition reminds me of the Three Colours trilogy- in particular, Blue- which dealt with a similar theme. The French influence is felt in some of the cinematic choices, particularly a frequent use of jump cuts in some of the scenes. The use of the soundtrack was also interesting- at the beginning, orchestral and brass instruments formed the background music, but as the movie progresses, more contemporary pop and rock take precedence, reflecting the change in the main character's mood.
Jake Gyllenhaal's performance is central to the film- and delivers, showcasing his ability to express a wide range of emotions, and knowing when not to- especially when the script has his character wallow in grief, expressing absolute deadpan honesty about his feelings and yet at the same time having a latent masochistic streak. Naomi Watts does a pretty good job as Karen, and Judah Lewis however holds his own among the big names as Chris, Karen's rebellious teenage son who brings a very youthful touch to the proceedings
Demolition is by all means a good movie, if not a great one, and a film filled with more depth and substance than one would usually expect.