Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Bryan Sipe
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper
When some people grieve the go through the five stages outlined by Elisabeth Kübler Ross in 1969’s “On Death and Dying.” Davis Mitchell, the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal in “Demolition,” takes a slightly different approach; the breakdown and reconstruction of his life, both in the literal and metaphoric sense. Regarding the literal, Gyllenhaal does plenty of deconstruction; from his refrigerator to his house, but does little literal reconstruction. The Reconstruction is taken care of via the metaphorical breaking down of his life.
The metaphorical breaking down of his life provides a fascinating insight into the nature of grief. The way in which Gyllenhaal deals with his grief in the movie is separate from the Kübler Ross stages because his method for grieving does not conform to any of the stages, other than acceptance at the end. His method of grieving comes from a place of curiosity, heightened awareness of his surroundings, and possibly a sense of isolation from the outside world. Not that the movie tells you a whole lot about his personal life though it is apparent that he is a little socially awkward.
The Flaw with “Demolition” is that you do not know a lot about the personal life of Davis, with the exception that his wife had recently passed. That would have been helpful to the story because the story does throw a couple of curveballs at you and they feel shoehorned and out of place. Knowing more about the character would, at least, let you get a feel for how these twists play into his life.
“Demolition” is, however, a superbly cast movie. Gyllenhaal is fantastic, yet again following powerhouse performances in “Nightcrawler” and “Southpaw.” There is defiantly an Oscar in Gyllenhaal’s future; though I doubt it will be for this performance. Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper perfectly complement Gyllenhaal with brilliant leading lady and supporting turns.
Despite falling short of its grander ambitions about emotional epiphanies, “Demolition” is a great movie that is well worth seeing.