Can we all just take a minute and appreciate how hard as of late, Jake Gyllenhaal has been working to get an Oscar. I feel like that needed to be said before this review started because Demolition is yet another great example of the subtleties he can bring as an actor to any performance (see Nightcrawler, Prisoners). Whilst his latest might not be on the same level as some of those mentioned, it still provides a worthwhile character study.
Following the life of Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhall), the story takes an introspective look at how an extraordinarily successful businessman with everything that he wants at his fingertips deals with grief and his own emotions. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who brought us the great Dallas Buyers Club, sets Davis up with a romantic counter-part of a mysterious young woman (Naomi Watts) and together things begin to unfold. One of the strangest films I’ve seen of late, Demolition is an interesting blend of drama, comedy, and romance and I’m not sure if it works as much as I think it could.
As mentioned at the start of this review, Jake Gyllenhall acting in this film really brings the whole plot together. In fact, the welcome addition of Watts and Chris Cooper also add great supporting touches as each of them seem to bounce off each other’s performance. If it weren’t for these three powerhouse actors, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the swiftly changing tones of the plot.
Speaking of which, it’s here that draws why I don’t love the film as much as I want to. There are so many tonal changes happening that it feels like the longest game of pong personified into a movie. It moves from being a hilarious and uplifting scene to then a spiraling downfall of seriousness so often that I’m not sure what to think and more importantly how to feel. The film does a good job of highlighting the instability of Davis as a character, synonymous with the title, as he becomes fixated in destroying objects around in him in attempt to learn how they were made. It’s a clear metaphor of how wherever he goes, he is tearing relationships apart due to his inability to connect with his emotions but it feels like that message isn’t reinforced enough.
It’s quite the puzzle but at least it’s a puzzle that’s still enjoyable to watch. There are some great moments of humor in this film even if they feel inappropriately placed. My best summary of trying to encompass what this movie represents is that of a famous stadium being purposefully demolished to make way for something else. It’s meant to be melancholic but at the same time you can’t help but smile in its destruction and at the end that’s what the film’s title is trying to allure towards. If you like Gyllenhall or a quirky character study, go see Demolition.