By Michael Kaye
Ok, full disclosure, this is not the review I planned on writing. I was only expecting to like this movie but find serious flaws in its storytelling and unlikeable characters who I probably wouldn't have cared about as much if they were played by different actors. But the more I thought about this movie, the less that original review would have cut it. I swear, it's as if director Jean-Marc Vallée's some sort of wizard, casting a spell that will make me completely surrender to his movies. He's already done with twice before with Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, and today he's done it once more with Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts.
Here's the story. As an investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash, his increasingly confessional series of letters to a vending machine company catch the attention of a customer service rep with whom he forms an unlikely connection.
This isn't one of those movies that I expect everyone to fall in love with. Some people are just invulnerable to Vallée's magic, but clearly I am not. And when you combine Vallée with the already awesome Jake Gyllenhaal, there's just no way I was coming out of this movie unscathed. So here we go, time to write some words that may or may not make sense, but will hopefully touch upon why I love this movie.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, what I said at the top of this review was not wrong. The characters in this film ARE unlikeable, and most like I WOULDN'T have cared about them had they been played by other actors. But that would have been a completely different film, and I'm only talking about this one. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Davis Mitchell, a goddamn basket case of an investment banker who recently lost his wife in a car crash, and you can tell by his initial reaction that there's something wrong with him emotionally. Gyllenhaal is no stranger to playing unlikeable characters, but the difference between Davis and, say, Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler is that you're rooting for Davis to get better, while Bloom is just a fascinating personality. Naomi Watts plays Karen Moreno, the customer service rep at the vending machine company and the kinda-sorta love interest. The two of them had some decent chemistry and while I was excited to see them work together, I was much more invested in Davis's relationship with her son Chris, played by relative newcomer Judah Lewis. The only other film I've seen him is that god awful Point Break remake, but since I barely remember that POS, I'll consider this his breakout role. And Hot damn does he knock it out of the park! How come now we're getting so many great child actors, yet when I was growing up we were stuck with Macaulay Culkin!? Anywho, the scenes he and Jake have together were fun to watch, especially when they got to go to town destroying Davis's house!
The tone of this movie just felt right. Comedy dramas don't really have a quantifiable formula, it's instead just a case by case scenario. I say this a lot, but if you can get on the film's wavelength, then it's done its job well. There's a certain rhythm to the way this story is told that I could get behind easier than most films that try something similar. If you feel that the movie's being overly quirky just for the sake of being quirky, then I completely understand, we'll just have to agree to disagree.
Wanna know how much of a nerd I am? The whole time I was watching this film, subconsciously my mind would often turn to an episode of Ed, Edd N Eddy called "One + One = Ed," where the Ed's seek to learn what things are made of by taking everything apart, while hilarity ensues. It may be a giant coincidence, but I'd love to think Jean-Marc Vallée had the same subconscious thought while making Demolition.
Speaking of Jean-Marc Vallée, I really do believe that this director is a wizard! But why, why does this movie work, when on paper it sounds like nothing more than some mediocre schlock you'd find in constant rotation on HBO or VOD? It has to be the performances, clearly bringing out the best in basically everyone he works with. It's the reason Matthew McConaughey won his Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, and it's the reason why Reese Witherspoon was nominated for Wild. I'm not trying to say this was Gyllenhaal's best performance in his entire career, but it's the best he could have drawn from this screenplay. But where Vallée really works his magic is towards the end of the movie, where we see Davis completely melt down after visiting his wife's grave. I'll admit I didn't necessarily cry while watching the film, but that was the moment that really stood out to me as I was leaving the theater, and that's when the movie really hit me with a 2 ton brick.
Finally, take a guess what I'm gonna say next. No seriously, I always save this part for last, because aside from movies, music is equally my biggest passion! It's another one of those movies where the soundtrack is just too good not to wanna own ASAP. By the way, good luck getting Heart's "Crazy On You" out of your head for the rest of the day.
Here comes the part where I'll inevitably get a lot of flack for giving yet another movie a perfect score, and I could honestly care less. This is MY review for Demolition, and I say it's a damn good movie that clicked at just the right time for me. I don't expect everyone to feel the same way, and I'm sure there are those who will completely hate the film just as much as I enjoyed it. Jake Gyllenhaal's on a winning streak at the moment, consistently giving his all anytime he's on screen, and I can't wait to see what he does next!