Review: Demolition, C+
Rated R, 100 minutes
The well-acted but uneven dramedy "Demolition" from Jean-Marc Vallee ("Dallas Buyers Club") plays like one of those 10-episode discovering life series on HBO or Showtime. It has a lot to offer but says little in terms of grief and truly moving on. It plays to the notion that you must destroy to rebuild, a notion that makes for a good movie but realistically seems gimmicky. Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife (Heather Lind) in a tragic car crash, his life unraveling. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts) and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, including her offbeat son Chris (Judah Lewis) the two form an unlikely connection, helping Davis rebuild his life. Directed by Vallee on a script by Bryan Sipe, "Demolition" features strong performances from Gyllenhaal and Watts, though a meandering, destructive second act plods its way to an over-sentimental ending that rings and feels a little false. Unlike previous Vallee mainline efforts "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Wild," it lacks a transformative or inspiring edge, instead Gyllenhaal's Davis must destroy stuff - a lot of stuff - either as a way to release stress or a mode of grief for his wife's death, something the vague script never really makes clear. The movie is content with creating the mess, without picking up all the pieces it creates but doesn't explore, including many in his marriage that remain unexplained. While both leads are charming, "Demolition's" most memorable turn is a supporting one from "CSI: Cyber's" Lewis in a breakout turn, as Karen's son who is struggling with his own identity issues, and ones that are far more compelling than the lead character's (and he learns how to use a certain f-word the right way). I wish "Demolition" had opted for a braver ending than the one it provides here, essentially saying as long as you clean up and make good in society's eyes then all is well, when often that isn't the case. While it makes for decent entertainment, it lacks a palpable feel to it, given that most would've just sold their house and moved on, instead of buying a bulldozer and destroying the thing.