By Christian DiMartino
“I know you like to think yo s**t don’t stank but lean a little bit closer and see: roses really smell like pooh.” -Outkast
If you’re a hater, I apologize for that, but I feel like it’s the perfect quote to describe Jean Marc Vallee’s Demolition. I ain’t telling you it’s s**t necessarily. But I must also admit that this is a film that feels as if everything it’s saying is golden, Ponyboy. It feels like everyone involved thought they were in the best film of the year.
AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM.
Jake Gyllenhaal is such a talented and fascinating actor that I think I’d watch him in just about anything. But not even he could save Demolition from destruction. It’s a film that works in spurts. It’s also a film that irked me.
Gyllenhaal plays Davis, a guy who admits to us that he has trouble feeling. Hence why when his wife is killed in a collision (of course she was focused on the driver, him, and not the road), he doesn’t really show any sadness. He does, however, write letters to vending machine companies, complaining or what not. Sounds strange, but this is actually a form of catharsis, considering he discusses his wife and what not in these letters.
He’s a jerk to his in-laws (one of which is his boss, played by Chris Cooper). What this guys damage is I’m not totally sure. But things change when he meets Karen (Naomi Watts), who actually read his vending machine complaint, and reaches out to him. Watts is a great talent, but she’s kind of wasted here, and eventually she’s even pushed off to the side in favor of her son. The two bond, he’s gay, blah blah blah he tries to find purpose blah blah blah he smashes things blah blah blah.
Davis smashes things to let out his rage, but watching Demolition might cause you to do the same. It’s not a terrible film; Gyllenhaal does some strong work yet again, and while the film begins in a conventional manner, it goes places out of its comfort zone, which is kind of cool. It also has some last minute twists I didn’t see coming. But yet its bogged down by its pretensions. The screenplay never fully jells. Half of it is sharp, and the other half is just too in love with itself.
The storyline involving the son just feels forced in there, as if they had a concept for a character, but didn’t have a story to surround him. Not to mention, Watts is pretty much wasted here. Her characters never really amounts to much. It’s not fair, considering how talented she is.
It’s also a shame because Vallee, the gifted filmmaker behind Wild and Dallas Buyers Club, usually pulls his characters off with ease. But yet throughout Demolition, I just couldn’t help but wonder why we care. Why was anyone compelled to tell this story. The answer to that is similar to that of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
The world may never know.