April 17, 2016

Movie Review: Demolition (2016)

Demolition is one of those movies that I was interested in but cannot say I had terribly high expectations for it. There was something about it that just seemed different. It was something about how the trailer transitioned from a tragedy to a comedy with a death followed by an annoyance over Peanut M&Ms. There there was the introduction of another woman, via response over said candy annoyance that indicated a potential new romance on the heels of a dead wife. Beyond that, the central character seemed somewhat off. It was interesting enough to draw me in.

The film is the latest from Jean-Marc Vallee, who made waves in 2013 with Dallas Buyers Club. That Oscar winning effort (notably Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor) was followed by another Oscar nominated effort in Wild (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress). I saw and liked the former, however the later held no interest for me. Now we have his latest feature and I think I like it more than the first of his I saw. No, it is not a movie with a message, it feels more personal, perhaps a touch unrealistic, but it still has a very real feel to it. It is a movie that is about the character and the journey more than it is about a strict reality. No, it is not a fantasy film, just one that is not above straying from a known reality.

Demolition centers on Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker who loses his wife in a tragic car accident in the opening moments of the film. We never get a clear picture of what she was like or what their life or their love was about, we get them being together at the very end. The story follows Davis as he begins to fall apart in the wake of his loss. It is fascinating to watch as he sees that his marriage may have been one of convenience rather than love, that he had been fooling himself into believing it was love. Now that she was gone, he was left adrift in the world, nothing much mattering, not feeling anything.

His numbness manifests itself from long winded letters to a vending machine company in the guise of questioning his lost quarters. He is a man cut free from any connection to other people, a man with no one to talk to. Things begin to change when he receives a phone call from the customer service worker at the vending company, Karen (Naomi Watts). She sees the sadness in his letters and oddly reaches out to talk to him. It is a strange relationship, one that you would presume should be a romantic one, but never quite makes it.

This is a movie that is not about romance, it is about finding oneself and your relationships to those around you and those that were around you. There is something about this movie and how Davis changes throughout that got to me. There was a cumulative emotional punch that hits as Davis reaches his breakthrough moment. It is a moment he was only able to achieve by essentially taking himself apart, visualized through the destruction of his home and its contents.

Surprisingly, I left the theater loving this movie. Demolition strikes me as a movie that means something quite personal to the filmmakers, perhaps they experienced some great loss or were close to someone who suffered the loss, something. The movie was written and made as a cathartic experience to deal with the loss, with that numbness that comes in the aftermath of tragedy, that time of coming to grips with it, of understanding it. It is a movie that will either connect with you or not, it does not seem like a movie for a mass audience despite its obvious potential for mass appeal.

Is it perfect? No, of course not. They do try to jam a message in with Karen’s son and his personal issues. It may be an important subject to explore (see the movie for more), but it feels a little jammed in without a proper conclusion. Still, it does not manage to derail the film, acting as more of an extension of Davis’s healing process, a way to connect with someone else who is also somewhat adrift.

Demolition is a better movie than I thought it was going to be. It struck an emotional chord I was not expecting it to hit. No, it is not the best movie, but it is the sort of movie that sits with me, that does the right things for me and my movie experience. This is an excellent film that deserves a watch and perhaps a reexamination.

Highly Recommended.

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