Demolition – review #sydfilmfest
Mal: In Demolition, Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his wife in a car accident in the opening scene. We soon learn from several confessional letters written to the customer service department of a faulty vending machine’s company that Davis is an investment banker who works in his father-in-law’s firm somewhere in Wall Street. Not surprisingly, Davis quickly loses the plot, but through the letters he writes it seems that he may not have had a firm grip on it in the first place. He certainly looks the part, wearing fitted shirts, shaving his chest and trimming his eyebrows. He and his wife have a great house in the ‘burbs with lots of space and nice appliances, apart from a leaky fridge.
Frank (an imaginary rabbit): All is not as it seems. I liked the mattress salesman line.
Mal: Davis, however, starts to wonder whether he really loved or even knew his wife, perhaps whether she loved him and questions why they got together in the first place. He seems stuck in the weird-reactions-to-everything stage of his grieving process, starts to notice things he never had before and eventually tells a counsellor that he is numb from his head to his knees and has been so for about the last 12 years (see trailer above).
Mal: Along the way he eventually hears from the vending machine customer service department he has been writing to in the form of a phone call from Karen (Naomi Watts). Davis eventually tracks Karen down and soon after meets her probably-gay son Chris (Judah Lewis) who uses the f-bomb far too much and gets suspended from school for mixing science experiments with the politics of war in Afghanistan.
Frank: He is definitely gay.
Mal: It was about this point in time that I started to think that Demolition was just a little bit Donnie Darko all grown up. Did Karen and Chris really exist or were they just imaginary friends in Davis’ mind?
Frank: No, that’s a stupid proposition, but at least I now know how I got mixed up in this. Of course Karen and Chris are real. You probably think I am imaginary!
Mal: Unfortunately, father-in-law Phil gives Davis/Grown-up-Donnie some dangerous advice that to repair something (e.g. a human heart): you need to take it all apart, strip it down and then you can put it all back together again. Davis quickly proves interested in and reasonably skilled at taking things apart. When it comes to the putting back together again, not so much.
Frank: He really sucks at the putting back together again, but at least he is proud of his work in the firm’s wash-room.
Mal: The random demolitions soon get ridiculously out of hand as Davis and Chris start dealing with their demons and learning about themselves.
Frank: Yeah and I was particularly fond of their shooting practice scene in the forest with a hand-gun and bullet proof vest. Don’t try that one at home!
Mal: Karen and Chris introduce Davis to other elements of life, including the music of Heart (Crazy on You), and his road to recovery begins.
Frank: Karen, Karen, Karen. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
Mal: I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say that we do get one. This is not common these days and I for one really appreciate not having to make up my own or phone a friend.
Frank: You tiny brain. Have you no imagination at all?
Mal: Demolition is billed as a darkly comic drama, but I don’t think it is that dark and it isn’t all funny. It is very entertaining and refreshing.
Frank: I don’t know, I found that Republican Party convention in Phil’s house a bit dark.
Mal: I liked it a lot. I’m sure it’ll be successful at the box office and Jake will probably win some kind of award for his performance. It is good to see that the US can still make films like this. Go away Frank.
My Bruce McAvaney Specialness Rating*: 4/5 (Most people would think this to be special.)