Demolition (2016) can't fix its own foundation
|Photo Credit: Demolition / Fox Searchlight Pictures|
In 2014 director Jean-Marc Vallée's exquisitely adapted author Cheryl Strayed's Wild to explore the weight of her mother's death as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Just two years later with a similar premise, Demolition is simply a weaker version of its predecessor.
Vallée's second take on bereavement focuses on a protagonist realizing the cage he felt trapped by in his marriage - almost like he wouldn't realize how much his life was in shambles until she was gone.
Mitchell and Karen's connection breaks open up an honesty about why he doesn't handle his spouse's death like the people around him. Did he really love her, or did his life just fall into place without conviction on his end? Nuisances he didn't pay attention to like a leaking refrigerator slowly explodes into him taking down entire houses. It's a subtle exploration of his own psyche to take life apart and put it back together.
However, Mitchell's escapades resonate from shock or denial at first. Weirdly, as Mitchell blasts and bulldozes his way forward, sympathy for him loses its steam. Julia simply doesn't have any layers to her as his wife - the center of his turmoil. She is merely a ghostly backdrop, and eventually, becomes one big cliche. Halfway through the film, knocking down everything in his path becomes repetitive rather than having something profound to say.
To his credit, Vallée knows how to design an incredible atmosphere. He splendidly uses music to explore Mitchell's gradually intense memories he can't let go of. Cinematography and editing by Yves Bélanger and Jay M. Glen, respectively, is vivid and polished. All three make the film extraordinarily smooth. And, Jake Gyllenhaal delivers another memorable performance. So does other established cast like Chris Cooper, Naomi Watts, and the blazing introduction of Judah Lewis. However, for all the emotional and physical dis-assembly Mitchell undergoes, the film has glaring cracks in the foundation that can't be fixed.