Thursday, 10 November 2016
The opening scene to Demolition shows us this movie's first act of demolition: Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his wife to a meaningless traffic accident. He, the passenger, is unharmed; she is dead. What follows on is the story of Davis' recovery from this cataclysm.
It's not what you'd expect. Davis does not have to battle with the notion of having lost the person he loved the most; instead, he's contending the feeling that he never really loved his wife, and that only now, through this freak event, is he able to finally figure it out. Which makes contending with his boss, also his wife's father, Phil (Chris Cooper) extra hard. Not only because Davis' exuberant material wealth and comfy Wall Street job comes off his wife's side of the family.
Clearly lost, Davis embarks upon writing complaint letters to the owners of the hospital snack vending machine that swallowed his change while he was there for his dying wife. Only that the scope of Davis' letters is rather expansive, including detailed accounts of his life before and after the accident. The customer service woman on the receiving end of these letters, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) ends up getting personally involved, as well as her teenager son. Along their path to salvation several things get demolished, including Davis' house.
Watching Demolition I could not help finding myself totally captivated by the characters and their handling of traumatic events. Clearly, Demolition offers excellent acting performances. However, at the same time I took note how certain parts of this film border on the nonsensical, most notably Davis demolishing his own luxury house without even the slightest police intervention. My personal solution to this contradiction was to consider this demolition metaphorical, the sort of thing that can happen in movie world but not in real life.
Regardless, Demolition presents viewers with a recurring pattern of people whose lives were diminished by doing the ordinary things that were expected of them instead of being what they are / doing what they want. Again and again I was taken aback with the message it offered, essentially arguing that yes, you will get hurt if you follow your heart and go against the flow, but you will also find internal happiness that is otherwise impossible to achieve. Just ask Karen Moreno's son after he got the shit beaten out of him while exploring his gay tendencies.
Sure, you can argue Demolition's message is too much of a cliche. I, on the other hand, found it a well aimed, poignant artistic statement. As someone standing at a personal crossroad in my own life, I have found Demolition a kind of a beacon in the dark.
Overall: Potentially confusing and disorientating, Demolition is also somewhat inspirational. All of which combine to make a fine piece of art deserving 4 out of 5 crabs.