Review: “Demolition” Is A Hard-Hitting Drama That Shouldn’t Be Missed



Title: Demolition
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Posted July 18, 2016 by

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When a successful investment banker, Davis (Gyllenhaal), loses his wife in a car accident, he begins to reevaluate his life and the things that really matter to him. By destroying bits and pieces of the things that make up his every day existence, he will begin to heal emotionally as well as grow mentally. The one thing that helps him get his feelings out is writing formal complaints to a vending machine business whose product took his money without giving him what he ordered while in the waiting area of the hospital. Through this action, he ends up forming a relationship with the customer service rep, Karen (Watts), that ends up reading all of his letters and her young son Chris (Lewis) who feels misunderstood.


“Demolition” is one of those movies I went into completely blind when it came to the premise and even the genre; it just felt like a safe bet with Gyllenhaal leading the way. The guy can pretty much do any kind of movie and still deliver a captivating and brilliant performance — some that have been underrated while others that have received high praise. Gyllenhaal’s performance in this film may be the most heartbreaking while also being the most difficult to sympathize with. His character keeps everyone — including the viewing audience — at arm’s length and approaches even the most devastating of circumstances with a cold and emotionless demeanor. As the film goes along, however, you start to see that he’s actually dealing with the grief in a more authentic, if not completely abnormal, way then those who have not actually been in the situation would assume. You expect tears, screams, anger, and frustration. What we get instead is a character who goes about his life like normal for a time, then begins to notice everything around him and starts to take them apart piece-by-piece, and ultimately comes full-circle in his grieving process.

Chris Cooper does in this film what he always does; plays the hard-ass, disapproving father figure that you love to hate. He does it so well and this performance is no different. While Naomi Watts plays the largest role that isn’t already assumed by Gyllenhaal, it’s actually Judah Lewis’s performance as her teenage son that stands out the most. He’s the one character that’s dealing with issues we have all dealt with — feeling different, misunderstood, confused. He’s the easiest character to relate to and Lewis plays him in such a way that you end up liking him more than anyone else in the movie. This film could have revolved around the relationship between Davis and Chris and I would have been completely fine with that. Fortunately, however, a larger story is at play here.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée is beginning to build an impressive resume for making hard-hitting dramas with Dallas Buyers Club, Wild, and now Demolition. While the subject matter he’s been approaching can be heavily depressing at times, it also causes the viewer to think about their own life, their own beliefs, and possibly reflect on what they can change about themselves while also having the movie entertain them. It’s a tough thing to do to be interesting and preachy at the same time, but Vallée does it in such an artistic way you can’t help but enjoy the experience. Writer Bryan Sipe also seems to be content living the drama genre with this film and his most recent The Choice. My favorite part about his script is throughout the movie this Volkswagen keeps appearing and following Davis everywhere he goes. At no point in the film do they tell you who the person is that’s following him or what their motives are, but they allow it to be a metaphor for something bigger and the meaning behind the metaphor can be taken in a number of ways. I like that while everything else about this film feels controlled, this automobile represents a wild card that keeps popping up and ruining the order of things. 

While “Demolition” leans hard to the dramatic side of things, there are also moments of comedy that I wasn’t expecting. In one scene, after Davis and Chris have grown closer to one another and begin trusting each other, Davis finds himself dealing with Chris asking questions about his own sexuality. It’s not an easy conversation to have, especially with a kid that’s not your own, but the way in which both characters deal with it and talk honestly about it was refreshing.


This is yet another movie that proves Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working today while introducing us to the talents of Judah Lewis and what he may have to offer in future roles.Demo




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