Demolition, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, follows the life of an investment banker, Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal), after he loses his wife in a car accident. He becomes increasingly emotionally detached, although from the beginning it seems he wasn’t completely invested in the life around him. After a mishap with a vending machine, Davis begins writing complaint letters to the vending machine company, detailing more of his life than necessary. The customer service representative, Karen (Naomi Watts), gets in contact with him, taking an interest in his life.
Metaphors are thrown at you the moment the film begins. Davis becomes fixated on the disassembly of everything around him – he wants to know how and why they work. As a person who is contemplating multiple aspects of his life, such as his marriage, he is trying to put himself back together. This starts out as a great representation of a man trying to figure himself out, but at a certain point it gets a little repetitive. It continues to work because you understand why he’s doing everything, but I found myself asking what’s next? A bit of a plot twist happens and it’s at that point that another layer of depth is added that helped the film regain some momentum.
The sub-plots, while interesting, felt rushed, not as fleshed out as they could have been, fragmented, and then awkwardly concluded. Karen’s partner, the owner of the vending machine company, has a role that was completely unnecessary. The character could have theoretically existed for the sake of Karen’s character development, but all the scenes between him and Davis were unneeded. Towards the end, Davis spends a lot of time with Karen’s son, Chris (Judah Lewis), and at a certain point I began questioning, “Where the hell is Karen?” as she pretty much disappears for a large chunk of the film to make space for the relationship between Davis and her son. The connection that formed between Davis and the son was great, but it took a bit of a strange turn. It worked on many levels but ultimately felt squeezed in. The connection between Davis and the supporting characters became choppy, though it seems to be more of an editing problem than anything else.
The acting and dark humour are ultimately what ends up making Demolition fairly good. Jake Gyllenhaal is an incredibly talented actor, perfectly portraying the fake smiles, the distant stares, and flawlessly delivering all the humorous lines. Naomi Watts and Jake Gyllenhaal have a chemistry that feels equally endearing as it does strange, in the best possible way.
Despite its downfalls, you never feel disengaged from the film. You get invested in the life of this strange man, and it’ll keep you laughing the whole way through.