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Jake Gyllenhaal Breaks Down in ‘Demolition’

Jake Gyllenhaal-Heather Lind-DemolitionWe all process grief in our own way: that’s the crux of Demolition, in which Jake Gyllenhaal
loses his wife and proceeds to fall apart. I should have been on the verge of
tears through all of this, but somehow, I just didn’t care.

Bryan Sipe’s screenplay establishes Gyllenhaal as a man who
seems to have everything: a beautiful spouse, a magnificent home, and a cushy
job on Wall Street working for his father-in-law (Chris Cooper). But in the
wake of that fatal accident he realizes that none of it has meaning. When
Cooper tells him that in order to fix something, you have to take it apart and
put it back together, his son-in-law takes the aphorism literally and begins to
demolish everything around him, hoping that it will lead to some sort of epiphany.

Jake Gyllenhaal-Naomi Watts-680

He also initiates an obsessive correspondence with the
customer relations representative of a vending machine company that cheated him
out of a candy bar while he was in the hospital with his wife. Naomi Watts
plays the woman on the receiving end of those letters whose curiosity impels
her to respond to Gyllenhaal and get to know him. Her unruly teenage son (Judah
Lewis) becomes the widower’s unlikely ally.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives another fine performance here, but
because it’s so difficult to understand what’s going on inside him, I found it
almost impossible to relate to his character. Without that connection, Demolition keeps us at arm’s length.

I have such regard for director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., Dallas Buyers Club, Wild)
that I refuse to place the blame for this misfire on his shoulders. He delivers
everything the script can offer, along with his talented leading actors. I
carried nothing away from this movie, and I don’t think it’s worth my time to
take it apart. 

3 comments

  1. Michael Belanger says:

    Mr. Maltin,

    I follow your reviews religiously, and I rarely go to a film that you have reviewed unfavorably. Because I have enjoyed and admired Vallee’s previous films, I decided to go against your advice. I am not unhappy that I did. I don’t think that the film is about how Davis, the main character, reacts to his wife’s death and expresses his grief. It’s about a man who realizes that his whole life has been fake. He knows that he owes his career to pure nepotism. He and his wife were not the perfect couple that they appeared. He did not really love her, and she had a secret abortion that resulted from an extramarital affair. The father has an overly idealized view of his late daughter.Davis takes to demolishing his house as a way of erasing his phony past. He even tells a fellow commuter on the train that years ago he lied about being in the mattress business. At the scholarship party, where we are told that the winners were selected for their academic achievements and "strength of character," one of the winners–Todd–is a smarmy teenager who had just tried to feel up Naomi Watts’s breasts. The theme of living a fake life is even extended to the son played by Judah Lewis. Most likely gay, he is advised by Davis to fake an interest in girls while he’s still in high school. After high school he can escape to a gay mecca in a big city.
    Anyway, I think that the theme of the film is how much of our lives is faked.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Maltin’s right. It’s an inferior film.

  3. Max says:

    Maltin is wrong. Belanger is right.

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