Demolition (2015)

(On Cable TV, December 2016) This won’t matter to anyone else, but the last movie I watched in 2014 was an enigmatic drama featuring Jake Gylenhall and directed by a French-Canadian, and the last movie I watched in 2016 was also an enigmatic drama featuring Jake Gylenhall and directed by a French-Canadian. Demolition is far more audience-friendly than Enemy, though, even if much of the story takes place in the protagonist’s head as he acts out in strange ways. Everything starts when the protagonist’s wife is killed in a car crash. Our main character feels a curious mixture of remorse and lack of regret: He arguably contributed to the crash, but things weren’t all that happy between them. Now that his rich father-in-law is furious and his life is in shambles, our lead character flays for answers. He writes a letter to a vending machine company after a machine eats his money, picks up a demolition hobby (first with a professional crew, then freelancing on his own house), makes unlikely friends and lovers and looks at the world in a different way. As a portrait of a grieving man, Demolition is significantly more interesting than the usual, but even the surface distractions (all the way to a gaudy carrousel) can’t hide the sadness at the heart of the story. The quirky black humour does feel a lot like the current crop of independent comedies, but it helps the film stay more interesting than other similar films. Gyllenhaal is as good as ever in the lead role, ably supported by other capable actors in smaller roles. This being said, Demolition isn’t transcendent, and seems to avoid going to the end of its own train of thoughts: Even the titular demolition conceit seems to run out of steam at some point, muffled among other competing subplots. But even running at half-speed, Demolition works well and doesn’t waste our time. As a three-peat reunion between and Gyllenhaal and a French-Canadian director (this time, Jean-Marc Vallé rather than Denis Villeneuve), it keeps up the good quality of these collaborations.

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