By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
While you’ll never count me as part of the American Beauty backlash bandwagon, I’ll admit it, like many mold-setting, well-beloved films, has inspired its share of Craptastic imitators.
Demolition is very much in that same quirky, dark, suburban malaise reactionary mold. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a well-off white-collar man who loses his wife in a car accident but just can’t feel, man. An emergency room vending machine eats his dollar, prompting him to write soul-bearing letters to its customer service rep (Naomi Watts), leading to him befriending her and her grab-bag of cliches teen son (). Oh, and he now has the compulsion to just… break shit, ya know? Can they help him learn to feels again?
Awww… *projectile vomiting*
Gyllenhaal tries his darndest to embody the psychology of this maddening protagonist, and is the only reason this isn’t a complete trainwreck. Gyllenhaal has officially arrived as an actor whose presence is enough reason to watch a film all by itself, everything else be damned.
It took him awhile.
Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) has been hovering in the periphery of being an “Oscar Director” for a few years now, but if this was supposed to be his Sam Mendes moment, he whiffed hard. He fills the film with on the nose musical cues and overdirected visual flourishes and motifs, like the probably in the script Geico Gecko/totally didn’t get the rights Generic Lizard which shows up in the… hallucinations Gyllenhaal has? Refusing to grieve induces hallucinations, right?
This is one of those scripts that just wants to show you how much this artist feels, man. There’s no nuance or shading, no real censure of Gyllenhaal’s aberrant behavior and destructive wallowing in his misery. This is doubled underlined when screenwriter Bryan Sipe goes out of his way for making the parents of his dead wife, who’ve given him everything he has practically, look like assholes cramping his style, just not understanding how he feels, man. Asking him to please not fuck shit up and maybe take part in the foundation they’re setting up in her memory is just too much to ask, I mean right now, man.
I’m starting to wonder if Naomi Watts is poison to these mid-range Sundance wannabe dramas Hollywood keeps putting out there. She was easily the worst and least believable thing about St. Vincent, to the point it was a question as to why her pregnant Russian prostitute was in the film. Now she plays this vending machine customer service rep who calls customers in the middle of the night who is also mother to an impossible to age moppet who’s 11 when the script demands it (cool, I want to destroy things, and hey, do you think I’m gay?) and 18 when it’s time to wrench a little more melodrama out of this mess (yep, I’m going to the gay nightclub and gonna get beat up there or outside or something). Now she’s an impossible mom to an impossible child, both of which have very little to do with whatever Gyllenhaal’s supposed to be going through, except like they help him learn out to feel again, man.
God, what an awful poster, by the way.
Demolition Man has got Jake Gyllenhaal going for it and practically every other melodrama-seeped detail going against it. Up to you whether one outweighs the other.
Demolition (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each demolished item
Take a Drink: for each vending machine letter
Take a Drink: for Jake Gyllenhaal freakout eyes
Take a Drink: whenever Chris is precocious in an ambiguously age-defined way
Do a Shot: for the off-rent Geico gecko