Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
An emotionally desperate investment banker finds hope through a woman he meets in Chicago.
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★★★★½ review by Jared S. on Letterboxd
I'm the kind of guy who buries everything deep down. If someone close to me died, you wouldn't know it unless I told you. If I got fired or failed a class, my general demeanor wouldn't change enough to be noticeable. I internalize everything, burying it deep down inside and doing my best to ignore until eventually, it just goes away or the world solves the problem for me. It's a quietly destructive system of dealing with hardships, but from my experience I think I would prefer it to the alternate, more vocal and public approach. People often deem this method unhealthy, something I vehemently disagree with. I'm a put together individual, relatively mature and pretty steadfast in my fundamental beliefs and morality, especially considering I'm 19. Demolition is one of the first films I've seen that seemed to reflect my methods for dealing with stress (on some level anyways) that didn't ultimately indict them. I loved it.
As a film, Demolition is a quiet powerhouse of emotion. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to justify his standing as one of the finest actors working right now, giving a quiet and darkly comedic performance that is absolutely fundamental to the success of the film. Naomi Watts, an incredible actress in her own right, seems a bit off kilter and awkward, but so is the character she is playing so I have no issues with her work here either. Jean-Marc Vallee's direction here is great as well, weaving a sort of confused story together through effective editing and a fundamental loyalty to the subdued mentality of it's protagonist. A quick look at RottenTomatoes and I see that many are calling this a "slog", or a film that doesn't necessarily reflect the tragedy of it's narrative. But Demolition takes place within Gyllenhaal's head, attempting to cinematically represent the process of internalizing grief and strife, which I feel inherently lends itself to a subdued atmosphere.
But the moments that need to land do, mostly consisting of another character desperately trying to salvage any sort of emotional response from Gyllenhaal. I found the film to be profoundly relatable, perhaps the most I've ever seen in it's interpretation of grief and loss. Now let me make a few things clear. I'm 19, so I've never lost a wife, a child or a parent. I've never torn down my house or taken apart my fridge, and I've never really dealt with any stress outside of relationships (romantic and platonic), grandparents passing or dogs dying, school related stress or financial concerns. But stress is relative, and I saw myself in Gyllenhaal's journey. There was no scene with him crying himself to sleep, or breaking down at the deceased's gravestone. No constant screaming, anguish or turmoil. Life went on, and only those around him aroused any emotion following his wife's death.
It's a fundamentally human film, masquerading as an absurdist comedy while dealing with some of life's most confounding scenarios. It's a film that tracks Gyllenhaal's breakdown, bravely painted with humor and melancholy alone. And amidst that insincerity the film finds some beauty in the breakdown, as Gyllenhaal eventually finds his answers within the rubble of his old life. I can sympathize with Demolition's detractors, but personally I found something really beautiful that I hope to cling to and appreciate further as I mature. I found a film that doesn't malign my mentality towards adversity, but rather explores it and tries to understand it. It's a film with sympathy for it's conflicted protagonist, and subsequently I found sympathy for myself in there as well.
A personal favorite.
Part of 2016 Films Ranked
★★★★½ review by WillML on Letterboxd
Saw it again and it hit me even harder.
Punch-Drunk Love directed by Terrence Malick.
So much of this film plays out like a Terrence Malick film.
Old Malick. Like a "Days of Heaven" prime Malick. More narrative-driven Malick. Yet also very new-Malick as well.
The use of voiceover over the choppy, sporadic imagery. Like a broken fairy tale or dream. A bunch of pieces falling downwards, hoping they can stay intact once they hit rock bottom.
Its story is weak, you say?
Isn't life like that? Don't you have days where you feel out of place? Like you were randomly placed here? Like nothing seems to be falling in the right place, or order? That's what "Demolition" conveys so brilliantly.
It's a beautiful, sad, funny film, as is life, with towering performances by Gyllenhaal, Cooper, and Watts. If you're looking for the best storytelling/editing/acting/writing of the year, seriously, look no further than Jean-Marc Vallée's newest and best, if you ask me.
★★★★ review by Robby Warren on Letterboxd
Depressing almost to a fault and narratively disjointed, Demolition proves further more that Jean-Marc Vallee knows how to get a great performance out of his actors. Jake Gyllenhaal gives perhaps the strongest performance in one of J-MV's films and of his career, he is 100% committed and believable as a man that's completely lost in life and depressed. Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, and Judah Lewis also round out a solid supporting cast. The movies narrative can get quite messy at times, and I don't remember the last movie that was this depressing, but even with those flaws, this is still a movie I'd recommend especially for Jake's incredible performance. Don't understand the mediocre reviews this has been getting, for sure one of my favorites in 2016 so far.
★★★★½ review by Melissa 🎃 on Letterboxd
Everyone: this movie is garbage!
Me, through gritted teeth: yes.. it is..
★★★★ review by WillML on Letterboxd
Wow, this is quite fantastic.
Ignore the reviews, because this is another uniquely beautiful character study by Jean-Marc Vallée.
A tragic accident leaves Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhaal) at odds with his parent-in-laws, and himself in a way.... and a very good movie ensues.
What's so excellent about it, is that the filmmaking and the film itself is as wonderfully complex as its main character, played as well as we've come to expect from Gyllenhaal.
I've come to quite adore the way Vallée makes his films. His films aren't cookie-cutter movies. On paper, sure, but the way he brings it all together is more similar to an experience, than a narrative.
The pulsing editing, the flashbacks intertwined with the present. He did it in "Wild", a film I quite liked, but in "Demolition" it's used to its fullest degree and it works exceptionally, beautifully well for this story.
I was so emotionally invested and equal parts confused and sympathetic towards this odd, odd, man..
Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper also do tremendous work.
This is my third favorite film of the year, and it might move up on a re-watch. Very surprised by the critical reception. I implore you to check it out, even if you're just a fan of these actors (and who isn't??).
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