DEMOLITION

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Spirituality and materialism clash in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition, a comic melodrama about grief. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a Wall Street guy—wealthy, successful, on the fast-track, but overworked and on autopilot. After his wife tragically dies, he starts unraveling. He’s not visibly sad over the loss: he makes mock sad faces in a mirror, records an impudent voicemail greeting, makes light of a heart-to-heart with his father-in-law (Chris Cooper). For his character, the wife’s death is a break from the constricting rat race lifestyle, and now that he’s liberated, he reacts with the childish impulse to act impolitely, shirk responsibility, break stuff. This whimsy coincides with a pen pal relationship he develops with a single mom (Naomi Watts) who works in customer service at a vending machine plant. Despite its loose plot, Demolition proceeds quickly and sprightly if absurdly. After the climax there is a treacly, sappy resolution. Gyllenhaal’s character says that grief forced him to perceive everything as a metaphor; whether Demolition, with its direct and indirect references to 9/11, is a political statement is questionable. More likely those references are there to make Demolition seem like a bigger, zeitgeistier movie. But, oddly and wonderfully, one of its mementos is a recurring reference to Dan Deacon’s “Drinking out of Cups.”

By Alec Julian & Carrie White 

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