Demolition (2015)

  • Time: 100 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
  • Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper


Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father-in-law, Phil (Chris Cooper), to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep, Karen (Naomi Watts), and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.


  • Demolition is no rom/com but it’s no serious drama either. There’s some very funny stuff but there’s emotionally wrenching elements. It’s also a reflection of our society today. It’s not one or the other but something very much its own.
    Bryan Sipe has constructed a story that is more character than action. The recently widowed Davis’s character moves forward but, as the title suggests, using some different ways of moving from the more traditional forms of mourning. There are some time questions that are glossed over but it’s not a major flaw because the character so demands your attention. Director Jean-Marc Vallee focuses on the character of Davis Mitchell, allowing the growth of the character and the emotional shifts to be believable. His pacing is good but again, there were several times where it seemed the movie had jumped forward with no explanation.
    The primary character in this story is Davis played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He is totally focused on his work and he’s good at what he does but when his wife dies he knows there’s various emotions he should be feeling but he’s not. It is this emotional journey that Davis makes and Gyllenhaal plays so well. Davis tries to get some M&Ms from a vending machine and they don’t drop down. The expectation is anger, his wife has died only a few minutes before, but instead he writes a letter to the company. This sets one part of the story in action but also demonstrates Davis’s lack of feelings.
    The lady who ends up with his letters is Karen Mareno, played by Naomi Watts, who is a much more free spirited, if just as confused individual, as Davis. Davis’s letters trying to explain himself become almost an obsession to her and she can’t keep her distance although she tries. Watts gives the character the emotional confusion the character needs but doesn’t lose the humanity the character has.
    Chris Cooper plays Davis’s father -in-law and boss, Phil, and you can see through his emotional responses that he has lost his daughter but he’s trying to help his son-in-law. Cooper’s Phil gets angry but not dismissive and you can see Phil’s emotional conflict caused by Davis’s reactions.
    Karen’s fifteen year old son, Chris, is played perfectly by Judah Lewis. This is an obnoxious fifteen year old who needs to talk with someone and Davis fills the bill.
    Also in the cast are Debra Monk as Davis’s mother and Polly Draper who plays Davis’s mother-in-law.
    Demolition is a very good movie. I give it 41/2 sledge hammers out of 5. I would not be surprised to see this film getting some awards.

  • Dramas are genre that we as an audience enjoy. Most of the time when it is centered on one character and his journey through struggle with the world, they often make up for the best stories. Mostly when the film is focused they make up for the best stories. That cannot be said here for Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition. One thing you can say about Jean-Marc Vallee is that he can direct films about characters damn near perfectly where you can see their struggle and their very messed up lives. We went from Matthew McConaughey having AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club to Reese Witherspoon hiking through hell in Wild and now we have a heartless Gyllenhaal coping with his wife’s death and getting his shit together in Demolition.

    Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father-in-law, Phil (Chris Cooper), to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep, Karen (Naomi Watts), and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.”

    The best thing about the movie for sure is Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis Mitchell. This is really entirely his movie and he carries it all the way through. Besides from the acting and his emotionless emotions its the narration that carries the story. Without his narration you won’t know what the hell is really going on in the movie. You genuinely get what Davis is going through and you feel bad for him but with this film you immediately have to get the sense that when people go through bad times they have different reactions and ways to cope that it messes up their mind and heart, so as an audience member its an either or situation where you may get with him but then be on the opposite end where you think he is a total asshole. This movie is genuinely human through the most of it. There are some unforgettable shots that are beautiful to see. The movie in the end is a dramatic comedy. Not much romance as you would think but more of a bonding film. The movie has a lot of funny written lines of dialogue that comes out of left field and gets you laughing hard but at the same time have you thinking. Its not if it goes out of its way to have comedy that is works on shock value but tto Its pretty much the way Davis interacts with the world is hysterical. But when the movie finally finds its footing onto what it is really about when they introduce Karen’s son who is nearly as crazy as Davis, so the scenes between the two of them bonding and having deep conversations are heartwarming in a very messed up sorta way.

    Though Demolition is a character driven film, the main thing against it is like the central character the film is very unfocused. For a film named Demolition that nearly destroys the film itself, because when you think the movie is about Davis emotionlessly coping over his wife’s death it turns into this romance between the him and this customer service representative named Karen. But when you think it’s about that it turns into this bonding friend film between Davis and Karen’s son Chris. But then when you think it’s about that it turns into Davis breaking down his marriage by smashing and dissembling things and by that point you’re just screaming “MOVIE MAKE UP YOUR MIND! WHAT ARE YOU ABOUT?!” No doubt about it this film has a great setup, but then it just gets scatterbrained to a point where Davis’ narration says something we go into his mind and think what that word means like nearly four different times. Even the tone of the movie is a bit off. At one moment you’re gasping at something surprising and then 30 seconds later you’re laughing hard only for you to feel bad again Only three or four characters in this film have dimension and are complex, but everybody else is just a cartoon. It’s as if they’re there to overact or just do reaction shots and it is very continuous whenever Davis says or does something strange. It’s not the actors fault entirely its really the script just being sort of all over the place. The movie really drags and feels slow and picks up around the third act but when the film is concluding and you’re waiting for a satisfying ending, it cops out which is really disappointing especially coming from a director like Valle.

    All in all Demolition’s cast and comedic and emotional performances makes it a watchable film though it is as unfocused and scatterbrained as its central character and gets its grounding into consistent storytelling a bit too late.

  • Though problems the size of fault lines pervade nearly its entirety, there is something strangely compelling about Demolition, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a man in crisis following the death of his wife.

    Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhaal) has the beautiful house and the beautiful wife (Julia, played by Heather Lind). He has a cushy job working in the Manhattan investment firm co-founded by his father-in-law Phil (Chris Cooper), who is not particularly fond of his daughter’s husband. He’s a slimeball at the office, which makes him great at his job, and slightly less of a slimeball at home where the exasperated Julia is constantly leaving Post-It notes reminding him of tasks he never gets around to doing. It’s a shell of a life and he comes to realise just how hollow it all is when he’s suddenly widowed.

    Davis goes back to work immediately after his wife’s funeral, much to the surprise of his co-workers and Phil who takes him aside, notes how they both keep their emotions in check, and advises, “If you want to fix something, you have to take everything apart. Figure out what’s important, what’ll make you stronger. You have to examine everything, then you can put it all back together.” Davis, already fascinated by noticing things he never saw before (or maybe he saw them but never noticed, he muses), takes Phil’s advice to heart. Everything is ripe for dismantling – whether it be the fridge at home, the computer at work, or even his marriage to Julia, which is represented by their glass-and-concrete house in White Plains.

    Did he ever know her? She always said he didn’t pay attention. Did he ever really love her? He can’t even pretend to cry at her funeral, so maybe he never loved her at all. It was just easy to marry her. He shares all this and more with the Champion Vending Company in a series of wincingly candid letters that began as a complaint about a bag of Peanut M&Ms being stuck in the hospital vending machine and quickly turned into a peculiar form of self-analysis. Except these letters are not being sent into the void, there’s someone in customer service actually reading them and that someone turns out to be Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), a cannabis-smoking single mother having an affair with her boss and who is struck enough by Davis’ epistolary outpourings of emotions that she not only begins stalking him during his commute but also phones him in the middle of the night to offer sympathy.

    Karen is as cuckoo as Davis, a fact that her rebellious, smart and sexually confused young son Chris (an impressive Judah Lewis) is quick to point out to the stranger who’s suddenly staying over and joining them at the dinner table. Davis and Chris subsequently bond, with the classic rock-loving latter even providing Mr. Big’s track “Free” as the musical accompaniment to the former’s dance through the streets of Manhattan. The film, already on tenterhooks with its heavy-handed symbolism and debatably admirable whimsical and quirky approach to the processing of grief, completely implodes in the final stretch. Yet for all the narrative recklessness that abounds in that third act, Demolition manages to not feel contrived and disingenuous in its depiction of a privileged white male experiencing first world problems.

    Director Jean-Marc Vallée and Gyllenhaal deserve the credit for imbuing Demolition with its oddly mesmeric quality. Vallée has proven himself adept at extracting natural and emotionally authentic performances from his actors – Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern in Wild – and his stylistic choices are off-kilter and yet serve the individual scenes and the overall tale so well. Having either bulked up (Southpaw) or slimmed down (Nightcrawler) in his most recent work, Gyllenhaal – devoid of such tricks and crutches here – turns in a superb performance that does not lack for heart or humour. What’s particularly noteworthy about the actor’s rendering of Davis is how he remains a prick par excellence throughout the film even when his near-sociopathic lack of empathy is tempered by film’s end.

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  • “He’s probably a crackhead.
    Crackheads don’t give people $200.
    They suck dick for $20.”

    A film about the grieving process of a successful businessman after losing his wife in a terrible car accident. This isn’t exactly the right ingredient for an entertaining or funny movie. To be honest, it took me some effort to watch the whole movie. Actually, I wasn’t eager to watch another metaphorical film full of symbolism with Jake Gyllenhaal. Something similar as “Enemy”. It’s like Davis himself says in the film : “For some reason, everything has become a metaphor”. Just admit it. The next situation really sounds absurd. Someone gets the news of his wife’s death, while sitting in the waiting room of a hospital. It was a car accident and he doesn’t have a scratch on him. The first thing that comes to his mind after hearing this, is getting a bag of M&M’s from a vending machine. Unfortunately,it gets firmly stuck in the machine, which in turn leads to a correspondence between him and Karen (Naomi Watts), an employee of the vending machines company who works at the customers service department.

    And you think this sounds already strange and absurd? Wait till you see how Davis follows the advice of his father in law Phil (Chris Cooper). He interprets it very literally. Phil’s advice was: “If you wanna fix something … You have to take everything apart … and figure out what’s important”. Before you know it, he begins to disassemble certain not so well-functioning devices. He takes it even a step further and starts working free of charge for a demolition company. Afterwards he seeks rapprochement to Karen and gets acquainted with her son Chris (Judah Lewis). Now his behavior becomes even more extreme. Chris seems to be a kindred spirit because of his doubts about his true sexual orientation. By the way, you can also enjoy a dazzling conversation between the two of them about the semantic meaning of the F-word.

    Among aspiring philosophers and future psychiatrists, debates can flourish about the symbolism in this film. Is Davis’s behavior a reflection of his current situation? A slowly disintegrating personal life ? A defect in his mental machinery? Or is it a kind of “Tabula rasa” reaction, to start a new life? Again Gyllenhaal plays a slightly kooky character. Everyone assumes that a psychological short circuit is the cause of his eccentric behavior. Indisputable this kind of movie character is suitable for an actor like Gyllenhaal. After watching “Nightcrawler” I called him already the chameleon of Hollywood. This masterful actor has a natural flexibility to find the balance between a light manic mood and a natural relaxing moment with that amused and wondering gaze. A brilliant actor.

    Besides Jake Gyllenhaal, also Judah Lewis was a colorful figure. Even the father in law was an interesting character, despite his rather limited role. The only one who didn’t have a high enough profile was Naomi Watts. A somewhat dull and colorless woman. A bit introverted due to some personal problems. I don’t know whether this was because of Watts or the script. What surprised me most was the way the film succeeded in keeping me captivated more and more. What started as a totally absurd and crazy story, gradually evolved into a gloomy (and touching) story filled with cynical humor. Only the corny ending, full of forgiveness and repentance, was slightly disappointing. Ultimately, this wasn’t a bad film (perseverance at the beginning is a must) with Gyllenhaal as a wacky individual. I wonder if he’ll continue in this direction in his future projects.

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  • I saw the trailer for this movie, and I thought: why not? Looks interesting. Jake Gyllenhaal is a very good actor in my honest opinion, he really suits this kind of role, and I liked the idea of the man who loses the wife and starts going almost crazy, realizing that his life has to change or something like that. I’ve seen this kind of plot more than one time, and it looked promising.

    I actually really liked the movie in the beginning, but, as the plot developed (if one can say so), it left me with a pretty strange feeling. Davis’ wife dies, and he doesn’t even drop a tear, because he didn’t love her; instead, he starts disassembling or demolishing almost anything he comes across, taking his father in law’s advice a bit too literally. His wife didn’t mean much to him, but her disappearance still caused such a deep change in David’s life. It’s when he meets Karen and her son that I began thinking they would have eventually gotten together or something, but nothing serious happens. Davis changes behavior radically, starts hanging out with Karen’s son and keeps disassembling and destroying things, getting to the point of destroying his own house (I didn’t really get why).

    As the movie goes on, I’m left with a sensation of emptiness and the desire for something real to happen, but it actually never does. Karen looked very happy with Davis, and so did Chris, but they just separate without an actual reason. Did Davis quit his job? Did he move or did he keep on living in his half demolished house? Did Karen leave Carl? Will Davis and Karen ever see each other again? Did something concrete actually happen in the whole movie, except maybe for the merry-go- round built by Karen’s dad with the money of her insurance? Even the poor guy who follows Davis in a station wagon and finally reveals himself saying he was driving the car which caused the accident doesn’t actually contribute to the plot in any way. I don’t really know what to think about this movie, because it looks like it is incomplete.

    I really liked the acting, specially from Gyllenhaal, and the idea wasn’t bad at all, but it needed something more. This movie is really thought provoking, and will make you think and think even after you exit the cinema or turn off your TV, but there isn’t much more which adds value to it.

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