This is the jumping off point for Jean-Marc Vallée’s latest film Demolition: a meandering mediation on life, love and, well… demolition.
Mitchell, played by the ever-watchable Jake Gyllenhaal, writes a complaint letter to the vending machine company, which quickly spirals into an ongoing correspondence with customer service rep Karen Mareno (Naomi Watts), in which he lays bare his failings as a husband and a man – alongside the more mundane details of his day-to-day life.
As he reassesses the life he’s built for himself – the high-paying job, “shiny” house, flash car – he sees it for all it really is: surface. He begins to literally deconstruct it (starting with the fridge), in a quest to rebuild something more meaningful from the component parts. Although this could be taken as quite a heavy-handed metaphor, this rather seems to be the point.
Where Mitchell finds real human connection is in the form of Mareno’s rebellious 15 year old – “but looks 12” – son Chris (Judah Lewis), who shares a similar appetite for destruction and reckless abandon. It’s this relationship that grants Demolition its most genuinely tender and interesting moments in a film that strives for profundity but too often settles for eccentricity.
Some may find the tone too loose as it veers between melodrama and quirky comedy, while the collage of dreamy flashbacks and on-the-nose existential metaphors at times appear to be filling in for a lack of story direction. Brian Sipe’s script could have benefited from a dismantling and restructuring of its own; narrative threads are picked up and discarded on a whim and others seem redundant.
Chris Cooper turns in a reliable performance as Mitchell’s father in law and 14 year-old Lewis more than holds his own against an experienced adult cast – surely a star in the making – but Watts’ role ends up feeling curiously underwritten and she’s inexplicably absent for a large portion of the film.
A curious mishmash of ideas and genres, Demolition suffers from a lack of focus and a surplus of ideas; nevertheless, Gyllenhaal and Lewis are a pleasure to spend time with and there is enjoyment to be found in the film’s breezy joie de vivre and gentle humour.
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
29 Apr 16 – 01 Oct 16, Times vary for each event
|Price||£Prices vary by cinema|