photo demolition_zpszzhm5qyl.jpg photo starrating-2stars.jpgIt’s already an uphill battle when you ask your audience to sympathize with the problems of a privileged, white, good looking rich guy. It doesn’t help when he behaves like a first class jerk. In Demolition, Gyllenhaal plays Davis Mitchell, a successful investment banker whose wife Julia (Heather Lind) is killed in a car accident. That’s a genuine tragedy, but then he can’t summon up the emotion to even miss her. Instead of mourning her loss like a normal human being, he spends his free time writing a succession of complaint letters. The missives are addressed to a vending machine company that stole his 6 quarters. He wanted a bag of peanut M&M’s while waiting in the hospital where he wife was pronounced dead. His confessional mail writing campaign finds its way to the desk of Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), a customer service representative.

It helps to acknowledge that Davis is mentally ill. Jake Gyllenhaal was a sociopath in 2014’s Nightcrawler and he’s basically one here too, albeit one with a more passive nature. Julia’s parents are nearly paralyzed by the loss of their only child. Davis? Meh, he couldn’t give a care. The fact that he cooly disregards his in-laws’ grief merely intensifies our disgust. His wife’s father, Phil (Chris Cooper), is also his boss. He’s the sole person in this entire woebegone film with whom we can feel some compassion. His exasperation with Davis matches ours.

Karen contacts Davis late one night after having been moved by the candor of his words. His complaint letter describes his life in self-serving dolorous detail. A friendship (nothing more, to the film’s credit) blossoms between the two.  Unfortunately the script  portrays her as little more than a self-absorbed pothead. The relationship gives Davis an opportunity to meet Chris (Judah Lewis), Karen’s quirky teenage son. The plot is already overstuffed with weighty themes that are superficially handled, but let’s add some more shall we?  Chris is a wacky, hard rock loving, f-bomb dropping tyke, confused by his own sexuality. That last topic is raised, exploited and then casually discarded a few sentences later without further consideration. Instead Davis encourages young Chris to shoot him with a actual gun while he wears a bulletproof vest. Don’t ask. It doesn’t make any sense in the movie either. Although that’ll be a great story for the child to tell his inevitable psychiatrist.

Is it possible to create a story that captivates our hearts without a single likable character? I suppose, but Demolition doesn’t even come remotely close. Davis’ all-encompassing indifference corresponds to our apathy for him. He is an insufferable individual. Smug and self satisfied, it’s impossible to feel any sadness for a man so emotionally vacant. Particularly late in the chronicle when he is physically demolishing the value of his extravagant home, first by taking a mallet to it and then a bulldozer. Whee! It’s fun to destroy things.  The screenplay by Bryan Sipe (The Choice) never delves into what makes Davis tick. As a result we have no clearer understanding as to what this guy’s problem is at the end, than we were at the beginning. That doesn’t prevent this wasted cinematic exercise from giving us a neat little happy conclusion that unexpectedly materializes out of the heavens. It conveniently ignores the very foundation of Davis’ personality. The contrived ending is the insincere kiss on the lips after a 101 minute beating.



20 Responses to “Demolition”

  1. The movie’s a tad messy. However, Gyllenhaal is still very good. Nice review Mark.

    • Gyllenhaal gave a really transformative performance in Nightcrawler. He wasn’t likable but that was ok. He wasn’t supposed to be. Here we are presented with a man whose wife has just died. Sad, no? The script wants you to have empathy for this individual. I just couldn’t.

  2. Wow. This thing has been getting a rough ride, eh? I can’t say I’m too distraught about it — I want to see this but I’ve got my wits about me now. I like Gyllenhaal enough to maybe like this more but by the sounds of it there’s a lot wrong with the screenplay. Which might be harder to forgive

    • Jake G is the only reason why I’m still gonna give this a watch and possibly talk about too, Tom. At this point, I’d even watch him eat crap in a movie, love him that much. I kid, I think…

      But, I’m already scaling back expectations. At least, based on the box office, won’t have to worry about a crowd, right lol?

      I really hope Nocturnal Animals is good.

      • I am really looking forward to Nocturnal Animals. It’s based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. Does that have a release date yet, MovieManJackson?

      • None yet, but 2016 is the year given with it being in post-production now.
        I’m betting it’ll get a release first at TIFF and then a later national release date just in time for awards season.

    • The direction is good and Jake Gyllenhaal is good, even though I hated the character. The script is the problem. Writer Bryan Sipe also adapted the Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Choice for the movie. So far not impressed.

      • Yeah, saw it last night and I’m with you on his character. Guy drove me insane. And there’s no payoff at the end, the whole thing left me with the feeling of ‘what was the point.’

      • Yes. I had the very same feeling at the conclusion.

  3. Yup, contrived and ridiculous ending. Gyllenhaal does his best to sell the material, but the script is just not very good. Great review!

    • Screenwriter Bryan Sipe doesn’t have a lot of credits. He also wrote The Choice (anyone remember that?), a film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel.

  4. Might skip this one. Nice review.

  5. I agree, when the protagonist acts like a first class jerk, it’s super hard to sympathize with him. I can’t believe that this guy feels no emotion over the loss of his wife. I would be equally frustrated with him. This particular line in your review cracked me up, “The plot is already overstuffed with weighty themes that are superficially handled, but let’s add some more shall we?” I’m reading you loud and clear on this one. I’ll be sure to steer clear of Demolition.

  6. smilingldsgirl Says:

    You could say this was not my cup of tea…It’s not that I mind the unlikable characters or the style but it didn’t feel believable and the dialogue seemed scripted not authentic to the characters.

    • I know you avoid rated R movies. I’m surprised you broke your rule with this film. It doesn’t have a good reputation.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        It was on the plane so edited for content

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I’ll see an R rating. It’s just on a film by film basis. I particularly watch out for strong violence and nudity but even that can depend on context. I have account which helps me decide. Some pg13s are much worse than Rs in my opinion

      • Yes I’ve noticed that some PG-13s are worse than Rs.

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