Demolition (2016)

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Another film that we had to wait far too long for was Demolition, which was made in 2015, but was pushed to this year for some reason. It is a story that I was absolutely fascinated with, even though I barely knew anything about it other than the basic storyline. Somehow, everything just seemed to work, and I had a lot of faith in this project. The general consensus was that Demolition did not turn out very well. However, I thought it was wonderful, and while it did have some enormous flaws, it was otherwise a very good-natured and interesting film, and one that I found to be very sweet and unique, and not a traditional kind of film we see from mainstream Hollywood.

The first reason why many people had such high expectations for Demolition is probably because of the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who created a lot of faith in his filmmaking abilities with Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild, and it was only logical that there would be great enthusiasm for his next film. Vallée also managed to court Jake Gyllenhaal (one of this generation’s finest actors) and Naomi Watts (an underrated leading lady if there ever was one) to star in his hauntingly poignant comedy-drama about life and death. The ingredients were all there for something tremendous, and while I will admit that it certainly did not transpire in the way I hoped it would, it certainly was far better than many people will lead you to believe. Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild set an unusually high precedent for Vallée, and perhaps Demolition was just not good enough to live up to those impossible expectations.

Demolition tells the story of David Mitchell (Gyllenhaal), a young finance officer who loses his wife in a tragic car accident. He starts to have an existential crisis, where he questions his mundane and boring life, which he transcribes through a series of complaint letters to a vending machine company. It piques the interest of Karen Moreno, who works at that vending machine company as a customer service representative. Karen herself takes interest in the unusual Davis, and they begin a friendship where they help each other out of their dull lives. Davis also has to deal with his boss and father-in-law Phil (Chris Cooper), who despises him, and forms an unlikely friendship with Karen’s teenage son Chris (Judah Lewis) who is a bit of a delinquent having trouble finding himself. The entire purpose of Demolition is for the characters to find peace with themselves, and understand that tragedies do happen – and that they make us rise above and creates stronger people within us.

Jake Gyllenhaal is such a great actor, and he has been having a fantastic few years, as he has transitioned to a fully-functional performer. His performance in Nightcrawler was one of the very best of the past few years, and he deserved far more recognition for that role than he received. The role of Davis Mitchell is a role anyone could really play, but Gyllenhaal does a good job, and once again brings a strangely detached quality to the character, like he did in Nightcrawler. Naomi Watts also plays a character she could do in her sleep, and doesn’t bring anything new to her career with this performance, but simply gives another wonderful performance. The true star of this film is Judah Lewis, who has by far the most interesting character. I am reluctant to praise child actors, because we have seen how the vast majority end up becoming troubled adults – and while Lewis doesn’t give the star-making turn that Jacob Tremblay did in Room, Lewis still showed promise and I hope he gets great roles in the future. Chris Cooper proves that he is a reliable character actor, but the major problem with Demolition is the fact that Lewis and Cooper are given very interesting characters, but they are never fully developed to the extent that they could be. Lewis is given a lot more to do, but I honestly could have seen much more of him and seen his story fleshed out much more.

Demolition is a great film, but the problem is that it doesn’t really make a point, and is more of a montage of a man slowly going crazy, and breaking things (hence the title) – it does make some fascinating points about life, and while I do enjoy it when a film is unconventional when it comes to its narrative, I just wish Demolition was a bit more focused and less concerned with being profound. It is a long time to wait for a point to be made, and it dangerously flirts with losing its audience by trying to be too philosophical. I enjoy that kind of thing, but many people do not, which is a problem if a film wants to be seen and acclaimed. I did enjoy it, but I understand why many people did not.

Demolition is a good film, but it does have its problems. It is not too detached or depressing that it alienates audiences, but some may find it slightly boring. However, I still enjoyed it very much, and found myself frequently moved by the film, because there is great emotional resonance within Demolition. It is a great look at the meaning of life, and while it may have been far better, it is still pretty good and gets its message across. I liked it quite a bit, and I am sure others may also be able to find some sort of meaning within it, because this film is brimming with it.

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