We 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.
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.