Hot Take: Demolition is either a film you connect with or don’t and there’s very little middle ground. I connected.
The most disappointing element of Demolition (as with many recent movies) is the trailer. There’s nothing wrong with the trailer, actually. When I saw it six months ago, this quickly became the most anticipated pre-summer release of 2016. However, the amount of information revealed in the trailer hurts the movie as you walk in all too prepared for the opening scene. By the time it happens, you feel numb to it all.
After his wife’s sudden death from a car accident that he walked away from without a scratch, Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) unravels emotionally. He had it all: A beautiful wife, a successful career, a great house. He realizes afterward that he didn’t love his wife. He doesn’t get much satisfaction out of his job. He hates his house. We learn all of this first through complaint letters to a vending machine company and then through phone conversations and eventually face to face with the woman in charge of the customer service department, Karen (Naomi Watts).
The goal here is to not reveal much more than you’d get from the trailer so we’ll stop there with the synopsis as you should get the picture. Connecting with the film was easy for me as you watch Gyllenhaal’s character seek out anyone and everyone to be honest with. I remember going through a large portion of my life shut down and rarely honest about anything involving emotion. At some point, something happened and I felt the need to be honest with myself. Then that trickled over to being honest with everyone. Even strangers. In Demolition, Davis goes through similar experiences which made it easy for me to follow and not dismiss as manipulative or trite.
I’m not sure if Demolition is for everyone. There are flaws in it’s storytelling difficult to overlook. As you’ve seen in the trailer, Mitchell and Karen’s son Chris (Judah Lewis) literally take a sledgehammer to his house in an effort to literally take apart his marriage. Then a bulldozer. Neighbors maybe peak out the window to see what’s going on but never does a cop show up or anyone ask what is going on. It’s obviously not important to the film so it’s conveniently left out. While this is nitpicking, it’s sometimes difficult to look past these questions that come up in an otherwise smart and thoughtful film.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Power and Discomfort of Honesty
There’s a theory I’ve always had that while everyone says they want it, pure honesty isn’t something everyone can handle. It’s why we don’t want to know the chili at Wendy’s is made with burgers that sat on the grill too long or there are an acceptable number of rodent hairs in a can of Spaghetti-O’s or that “WALK” button at the crosswalk is probably bullshit. Demolition gives a glimpse into the real power one can get from being honest and the discomfort it gives everyone else. And, yes, there is such a thing as being too honest.
- Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal continues to impress to the point where I can’t figure out why there was a time when I didn’t think he was someone worth seeing every time he made a film.
- New York
There is something about a film made in New York that you can just feel the living, breathing heart of the city when it’s on the screen. There’s no other city (maybe Philadelphia but that might be bias talking) that has a heartbeat on the screen like New York. It’s just the way the city shows up on screen that is different than any other.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Thoughtful Not Thought Out
There is very little consequence in this film. The film glances at the consequences of some actions but wastes very little time on it. It makes the film occasionally feel hollow and maybe even a little bit phony.
- Lack of Mass Appeal
Most people don’t want to hear that a successful investment banker with a beautiful wife, expensive car and gorgeous house in the New York suburbs might actually not be getting everything they want out of life. This will make Gyllenhaal’s Mitchell completely unlikable and impossible to relate to because material possessions and social status rule, right?
- What’s the Obsession With Car Crashes?
It feels like we’d lost about 100 movies a year if the film industry was banned from showing or talking about a car crash. There’s a joke about The Fast & The Furious in here somewhere, I know it.