Directed by Jean-Marc Valée
“Demolition”, a stilted comedy drama written by Bryan Sipe, was conceived by an extraordinary director and showcased a no less extraordinary cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper.
Despite these observations, it’s not an extraordinary movie, showing several problems that turn it into an unfortunate stumble in the filmography of the Quebecois Jean-Marc Vallée.
The latter, who deserves all my respect for works such as “C.R.A.Z.Y”, “Café de Fleur”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, and “Wild”, was unable to assure a compelling chemistry among the characters and eluded us by making us believe that this tearless tale of loss and grief could offer us something more interesting than weird conversation, whimsical behavior, and difficult relationships.
The film opens with a brutal car accident that throws Davis (Gyllenhaal) into a hospital, unconscious but intact, turning him into a widower since his wife Julie didn’t have the same luck.
After taking conscience of what just happened, Davis reacts in a strange way. No tears were shed and Davis even seems not to need any support or solace. The question if he’s in shock or simply indifferent to his wife’s death is inevitable, and the curiosity immediately takes over, just to let us disappointed in the course of Davis’ narration of his life.
Besides having a hard time dealing with frustration and trauma, and doing his best to deviate the eagle eye of Phil (Cooper), his boss and father-in-law, from his questionable behavior, the unstable Davis grows an obsession for Karen (Watts), an unprofessional customer service rep. He also creates a special bond (for the good and for the bad) with the latter’s 15-year-old son, Chris (Judah Lewis).
The film, reminiscing Malick in its narrative and mood, almost follows the steps of its main character in the way that it’s active but a bit lost and off.
Despite Mr. Valée’s well-thought-out intentions, the scenes oscillate between the strong and the weak, and Davis’ problematic phase is presented with a sometimes-embarrassing phoniness that it’s hard to chew up.
Likely, it will divide audiences in the same way that made me disoriented in the valley of its qualities and flaws.