When a young woman dies, her father and husband sit in a hospital waiting room, trying to process the devastation. Now widowed, Davis approaches a vending machine with the aim of scoring some peanut M&Ms. When the machine jams and his money is wasted, he sets about writing a letter of complaint to the vending machine company. Davis is struggling to grieve for his wife in the expected way. Letters to the company’s customer service department prove to be something of a release. His letters are full of honesty about his life before and after his wife’s death. He speaks of his career, his routine and his inability to feel anything during a time of huge loss. Davis battles with his in-laws who can’t understand his cold reaction to the tragedy. Meanwhile, someone is reading his letters. Demolition is a flawed exploration into modern life, relationships and mind set. It’s a relationship drama, a comedy, a coming of age tale and a self-indulgent mess. Demolition has charming moments but it is ultimately an empty tale with metaphors dumber and more obvious than it thinks. The film opens with a car crash and remains a metaphorical one from start to finish. I liked Demolition but I can’t respect it. Jake Gyllenhaal is a masterful actor and much too good for this movie – as is Chris Cooper and Naomi Watts. The film has a striking performance from cinematic teen-newcomer Judah Lewis and a thumping soundtrack, which I enjoyed; but even a track list this groovy can’t revive the story’s dying corpse.
Davis is a troubling central character whose lack of empathy is a little too over-dramatic considering his marriage was marginally happy. He is painfully honest with all around him which reminds us a little too much of the infamous Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal’s most outstanding performance to date. Demolition tries to be a bleak character study but we are unable to relate to his unprecedented coldness which makes us weary of him as he finds himself stuck somewhere between Patrick Bateman and Raymond Babbitt. Davis becomes obsessive about taking apart different devices and contraptions in a bid to start from scratch. Meanwhile he grows closer to the woman who fell in love with his letters, which also means trying to bond with her rebellious teenage son. At the same time, Davis seems to sabotage his father-in-law’s plans to build a scholarship scheme in memory of his daughter. A few nice ideas suffer from its lack of originality and there is not enough room for any of them to develop or grow in this movie. Confined within the small walls of the 100-minute film, they bump awkwardly against one another and never come together. Demolition is somewhat overambitious and forgets to make us care about the marriage at its core. As Davis works through his feelings about his marriage, his wife and her passing, it remains impossible to empathise or understand. Clumsy narratives and metaphor after irritating metaphor fly past in a movie trying to cover everything and consequentially being about nothing.
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