Review: Demolition

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Review by Dustin Heller

Jake Gyllenhaal headlines the new drama Demolition from director Jean-Marc Vallée.  Vallée has been on quite a hot streak of late with the success of his last two films, Dallas Buyers Club,which earned both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto acting Oscars and Wild, which notched Oscar nominations for stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.  Along with Gyllenhaal, the cast includes Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Heather Lind, and Judah LewisDemolition is rated R for language, some sexual references, drug use and disturbing behavior.

The film follows Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhaal), a well-off investment banker whose life is turned upside down when his wife is suddenly killed in a fatal car accident.  Davis doesn’t know how to cope with the loss and his life begins to tear at the seams.  One of his outlets for clarity is sending handwritten letters to a vending company that starts out as a complaint but turns into therapy.

As things are hitting rock bottom, Davis receives a call from a customer service rep from the vending company named Karen (Watts).  Karen has taken an interest in Davis’ letters and decides to follow him as he goes about his daily business.  Once Karen is found out, an interesting relationship forms between two people trying to get their lives back together.  After completely demolishing the life he once knew, Davis begins the healing process and starts building a new life with the help of his in-laws, Karen, and her son.

Demolition is a very good film with an excellent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, but it is much darker and more artsy than the trailer implies.  The story is somewhat of a non-traditional narrative with a number of whimsical flashbacks and dream sequences.  The film really has a Terrance Malick feel about it that is a great thing for some and definitely not for others.  The entire film is a metaphor of loss and putting the pieces of one’s life back together and it really all came together in the end.

I was a little worried as the second act was a bit slow and seemed to be losing focus of the overlying story.  I think Jean-Marc Vallée is a very good director and has a way of getting everything out of his actors.  This is definitely the artsiest film I’ve seen from him, but in my opinion it shows his growth as a filmmaker.

What can I say about Jake Gyllenhaal? He’s got to be one of the best working actors alive and just keeps taking on challenging roles and knocking them out of the park.  Demolition is not a film for everyone, but I’m thinking the art house crowd will fall in love with it.

Grade:  B+

Demolition opens in theaters on Friday, April 8

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