Demolition full movie review - Demolition is what this movie does to a Movie Fan's hopes for two hours of quality entertainment.
Sometimes I try to work a pun or a play on words into my movie reviews. Often, those are based on the title of the movie I'm reviewing or something about it.
In these moments, I'm hoping to be funny or at least a little amusing or clever. It's tough to know whether my readers think that those attempts make my reviews more enjoyable to read, but at least I'm entertaining myself. I try not to make the most obvious puns regarding a given movie, but sometimes filmmakers seem to be handing me a pun on a silver platter and I feel that I have no choice but to partake. (After all, if something's on a silver platter, it has to be good, right?) Therefore, as I prepare to review the drama "Demolition" (R, 1:41) I will be as fair as I can, as is my habit, but I will indeed be demolishing this movie.
Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a successful New York City investment banker who is better at high finance than he is at marriage. Davis loves his wife, Julia (Heather Lind), but he has never taken the time or put forth the effort to get to know her deeply so that his love for her can grow and his commitment to her deepen. Instead, after just a few years of marriage, she is killed in a car crash and Davis doesn't seem to feel much of anything. It seems that everyone around him is grieving, especially Julia's father, Phil Eastman (Chris Cooper), who also happens to be Davis' boss. Co-workers offer Davis heart-felt condolences, but he politely dismisses them without a trace of emotion. In fact, Davis comes in to work the day after his wife's funeral, acting no more upset than if his favorite football team had lost a big game. Phil continually does his best to help Davis grieve properly, but two men who should have grown closer as they supported each other are instead driven apart by Davis' increasingly bizarre behavior.
We don't see Davis grieve in any recognizable way, instead keeping his own spirits fairly high as he does whatever he feels like doing, not engendering sympathy from those around him, but further alienating himself from them. First, he takes way too far some questionable advice Phil once gave him about fixing things by taking them apart and then putting them back together again. He starts by disassembling the refrigerator that Julia had been asking him to fix, but he doesn't fix anything or put it back together. Then, for no apparent reason, he takes apart an expensive unopened cappuccino machine that Julia had recently ordered, then his work computer, then a stall in the men's restroom at work. He also has begun writing complaint letters to the vending company whose machine failed to dispense some candy that he tried to buy ten minutes after he learned of his wife's death. His letters go into lengthy stories about his marriage and his thoughts, but with no real emotion or regret. Just the facts. Just because. No more.
The customer service rep from the vending company, an Afghanistan war widow named Karen (Naomi Watts) responds and an unlikely friendship grows between her and Davis. She first contacts him via a 2 a.m. phone call to Davis' home and their exchanges get even stranger from there. Eventually, they meet and Davis befriends Karen and her surly teenage son, Judah (Chris Moreno), while raising ire in Karen's live-in boyfriend, Carl (C.J. Wilson), who also happens to be Karen's boss. Meanwhile, Davis steps up his destructive activities by joining a work crew demolishing a house (and paying THEM for the privilege). Then he turns his attention to his own up-scale suburban home, with Judah along for the fun. Phil has been trying to involve Davis in an effort to establish a scholarship fund in Julia's memory, but what Phil sees as unreliable, increasingly unhinged and disrespectful behavior from Davis pushes Phil past his limits of understanding and tolerance. A few plot twists late in the film increase the drama, but fail to bring the story to even a remotely satisfying conclusion. The resolution that we end up getting falls squarely in the category of "too little too late", doing only a mediocre job of making important points.
"Demolition" is a good title for a movie which so completely destroys any possibility that audiences might enjoy or even be touched by the story. Every single major character in this movie is so self-centered and does so many ridiculous things that they become completely unlikeable and not even relatable. I can't go into more detail without resorting to spoilers, but using a plot point I already mentioned (and which is prominently featured in the theatrical trailer), Davis' complete destruction of his own home is so pointless, over-the-top and wasteful that it's nearly impossible to appreciate visually or emotionally. This is not some guy (and a teenage boy) doing something that we might enjoy participating in. It's just stupid and utterly ridiculous.
Besides exposing Judah to the hazards and poor judgment involved in wantonly destroying an expensive house, Davis is a horrible influence on Judah in other ways. As their odd friendship grows, Davis gives Judah terrible and dangerous advice about a major decision Judah is trying to make. And another idea that Davis has for the two of them to release some pent-up aggression isn't just extremely dangerous, but gives ideas to younger audience members that could actually cost lives. There are many plot points in this film that are upsetting and uncomfortable to watch, and virtually irrelevant to the growth of the characters (which, in spite of this great cast, are only marginally well-acted). This film makes a mockery of the grieving process and irresponsibly condones some extreme behavior by both adults and children. Demolition is what this movie does to an audience's hopes for two hours of quality entertainment. "D"