TIFF 2015: Jake Gyllenhaal Shines in Jean-Marc Vallée's 'Demolition'
by Marco Cerritos
September 14, 2015
A privileged white collar worker literally decides to tear his old life apart in order to start a new one in Jean-Marc Vallee's Demolition, a movie whose agenda is muddled due to heavy-handed writing and an uneven style behind the camera. Jake Gyllenhaal continues his recent streak of great performances as Davis, a confused financial employee who is introduced at the beginning of the film getting into a head-on collision with his equally confused wife Julia (played by Heather Lind). He survives the crash but is left with little direction in terms of how to move forward. This is a man who at the center of his core refuses to mourn his wife's death and instead channels his grief in other areas.
One of those methods is by writing long, detailed letters to the vending machine company that crapped out on him in the hospital waiting room. The woman on the other end of those letters is Karen (played by Naomi Watts), someone who immediately sees Davis' call for help and handles it the best way she can. Their relationship is never fully explored during the film and is one of the many pieces left dangling at the end of Demolition but the introduction of Karen's younger son Chris (played by Judah Lewis) proves more fruitful to the screenplay and delivers some of the film's biggest laughs.
For most of the film, Davis continues to suppress his own grief while his boss/father-in-law (played by Chris Cooper) does the opposite. He encourages Davis to get in touch with his emotions by tearing every pieces of his old life down so he can rebuild a fresh one in its place. It's a nice sentiment that Davis takes way too literally as he proceeds to bulldoze his entire home in search of answers and forgiveness.
Demolition is was directed by Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallee, a filmmaker who is no stranger to putting his main characters through the ringer in search of catharsis. His last two films, Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, were acting showcases for their leads and his latest is no different. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his best, working without a net and emotionally raw. After the one-two-three punch of “ightcrawler, Enemy and this summer's Southpaw, it's no surprise that Demolition continues to prove that Gyllenhaal is one of the finest actors of his generation.
For an actor to anchor such a linear story without boring its audience is quite a special talent, especially when Bryan Sipe's screenplay is far from perfect. Some of the ideas and methods in Demolition are as subtle as the sledgehammer Gyllenhaal wields through parts of the movie. The film's third act in particular takes many questionable turns that don't entirely derail the movie but definitely slow it down. Even though Valle's mismatched direction and Sipe's script aren't up to par with Gyllenhaal's talents, the actor runs with the material anyway and paints a curious and entertaining performance with the tools he's been given.
Marco's TIFF 2015 Rating: B-
Follow Marco on Twitter - @BigDumbMale