Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Demolition (2015 film)

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and written by Bryan Sipes, Demolition is the story of an investment banker whose life unravels following his wife‘s death as he copes through destruction and chaos while meeting a single mother who answered his complaint letter. The film is an exploration of grief as well as how someone copes with loss at its most unexpected. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Judah Lewis, Heather Lind, Polly Draper, Debra Monk, C.J. Wilson, and Chris Cooper. Demolition is a mesmerizing yet offbeat film from Jean-Marc Vallee.

After a car accident that left his wife dead, an investment banker becomes numb where an incident involving a vending machine forces him to write a complaint letter that reveals a lot as it’s answered by a single mother who is intrigued by this complaint. While coping with this loss, the man would vent his numbness and uncertainty if he ever loved his wife through dismantling certain things around him as it becomes a metaphor for his loss. Bryan Sipes’ screenplay doesn’t just explore the lack of grief that Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is feeling for his late wife Julia (Heather Lind) but also questions about himself and what he’s done with his life. By writing these letters of complaints over a vending machine that refused to give him some candy, he would notice things he never paid attention as well as deconstruct things in his home to see what made them work.

When he meets Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) who answered one of his complaint letters, he would become friends with her as she struggles with raising a teenage son in Chris (Judah Lewis) as well as parts of her own life. Davis would help Karen deal with Chris where a conventional script would’ve had them fall in love but Sipes would go for something else where it’s more platonic as Karen is already in a relationship with someone. Still, Davis finds some fulfillment in his time with Karen and Chris which is in sharp contrast to his own meetings with his father-in-law Phil Eastwood (Chris Cooper) whom he also works for. Phil never thought Davis was good enough for his daughter at first but comes to care for him but becomes bewildered by Davis’ odd behavior. Even as some revelations about Julia come to ahead where Phil wants to set up a scholarship and foundation in her name but Davis isn’t sure if it’s a good idea.

Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction is quite simple for the intimacy that he creates throughout the film as it begins with the fatal accident that would leaves Davis unharmed but Julia dead. Shot on location in New York City and areas near the city, the film play into this world where it has this strange schism of class structure of upper class and middle class where Davis is part of the former and Karen is part of the latter. While there’s some wide shots in the film, Vallee would go for close-ups and medium shots to create something that is simple as well as some bits of hand-held cameras. Vallee would also create paralleling images as it relates to Davis’ own reflections of his time with his wife on certain locations or memories as it play into the search for his own feeling for his wife. It adds to this sense of wandering in the film as it can be comical at times or dramatic. Though there’s a few moments in the third act where it does a go a bit overboard in the dramatic aspects of the film. Vallee does manage to find a way to not let it overwhelm the story as well as provide something that is fitting to Davis’ journey through grief. Overall, Vallee creates an engaging and somber film about a man going through grief through destruction and opening himself to new worlds.

Cinematographer Yves Belanger does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic daytime exterior scenes as well as the usage of low-key lights for some scenes at night as well as some stylized looks for some of the interior scenes. Editor Jay M. Glen does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts and flashback montages as well as in some of the slow-motion moments in the film. Production designer John Paino, with set decorator Robert Covelman and art director Javiera Varas, does amazing work with the look of the home that Phil and his wife live in as well as the very shiny home of Davis and Julia which is sharp contrast to the more quaint and colorful home of Karen and Chris. Costume designer Leah Katznelson does wonderful work with the costumes from the mid-upper class posh look of Julia, her parents, and Davis along with the more stylish and casual look of Chris and Karen with the former embracing a more ambiguous look.

Visual effects supervisor Marc Cote does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects which consists mainly of set-dressing for a few scenes including the film‘s opening sequence. Sound editor Martin Pinsonnault does superb work with the sound from the way music is heard on location or some of the sound effects at a party or in scenes where Davis is destroying something. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a wonderful soundtrack that consists a mixture of classical music as well as some rock songs with the latter often being a driving force for Davis as he starts to take on a new lease on life.

The casting by Jessica Kelly and Suzanne Smith is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Malachy Cleary and Debra Monk as Davis’ parents, Polly Draper as Julia’s mother Margot, C.J. Wilson as Karen’s boss/boyfriend Carl whom Chris isn’t fond of, and Julia Lind in a wonderful performance as Davis’ wife Julia who often appears in flashbacks as someone that did love Davis. Judah Lewis is excellent as Chris as a 15-year old kid that is struggling to find himself as well as deal with the lack of a strong fraternal figure in the family. Chris Cooper is brilliant as Phil Eastwood as Julia’s father that is trying to cope with the loss of his daughter while being baffled by Davis’ odd behavior which only creates some anger towards him.

Naomi Watts is amazing as Karen Moreno as a customer service person who reads Davis’ letters as she is intrigued by him while befriending him as she deal with her troubled life involving her son and things in her own life. Finally, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal in an incredible performance as Davis Mitchell as an investment banker whose life unravels after his wife’s death where he begins to deconstruct and destroy things where it’s a performance filled with some humor and charm but also a sense of restraint in his approach to grief as it’s one of Gyllenhaal’s finest performances.

Demolition is a marvelous film from Jean-Marc Vallee that features great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts. It’s an odd yet compelling film that explores grief and how a man tries to cope with loss while finding some aspect of life he can connect to. In the end, Demolition is a remarkable film from Jean-Marc Vallee.

Jean-Marc Vallee Films: (Black List) - (Los Locos) - (Loser Love) - (C.R.A.Z.Y.) - The Young Victoria - (Café de Flore) - Dallas Buyers Club - Wild (2014 film) - (Big Little Lies (TV miniseries))

© thevoid99 2017


Brittani Burnham said...

You liked this a lot more than I did. I thought it lost steam after about 45 minutes, and I actually checked my phone in the theater (I was by myself) which I never do. lol

Often Off Topic said...

Gosh, I can't believe this movie is already 2 years old. I was so excited to see this, but it just came and went, and I forgot about it. I've always loved Jake Gyllenhaal, so I will watch this soon! Great review :)

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I can understand why it didn't work for you as it was flawed but I still enjoyed it.

@Allie Adkins-That's becoming coming nowadays. Movies are now coming and going quickly as it sucks because we never get the time to see it as this is actually worth watching as Jake is excellent in this.