This past spring, Demolition came and went through theaters. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and is the latest from director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild). Centering on a tragic story and the comedy and drama that comes out of it, the film involves a man who literally becomes a part of a self-destructive pattern and the people who help him right himself. The film initially played at some film festivals, before eventually debuting in theaters several months later. Now Demolition is available on DVD for audiences to get a final word on.
Demolition is a strange film that is watchable enough, but hard to like. Gyllenhaal stars as Davis Mitchell, an investment banker who has just lost his wife in a car accident. Davis was also in the car, but came out of it without a scratch on him. While Phil (Chris Cooper), Davis’ father-in-law and boss is appropriately upset, Davis has no real emotions about the event. However, the man still vents by way of hand-written letters to the customer service department of a vending machine company.
That last part is an odd way to announce the movie’s second act, but the story evolves into Davis dealing with the obvious issues he has, while customer service person Karen (Naomi Watts) and her young, quirky son Chris (Judah Lewis). In dealing with things, Davis goes on sabbatical from his job, infuriates his father-in-law and begins destroying things, specifically his own home.
Nightcrawler found Gyllenhaal showing similar sociopathic behavior and even had a lack of context for why. The difference is the approach to both films. We are not necessarily supposed to like Lou Bloom, but he was effortlessly watchable. Davis is a smug jerk in a film that really wants us to believe in his issues, despite his more hostile approach to grief. A dead wife is obviously a source of pain that one can feel for, but it’s hard to look at Demolition as anything more than an excuse to see another story of a successful white guy dealing with a setback and trying to find himself.
Yet, the film is quite watchable. While slow-paced, a bit repetitive and packed with more subplots than it needs, Vallee has constructed a film that is engaging enough to want to see the results. It’s shot and edited to elicit some specific emotions that could be considered manipulative, but play decently nonetheless. Some recurring visual motifs and a general understanding that Gyllenhaal looks more and more unkempt is also an easy way to keep the film under some sort of control.
Then you have the actors. I’m happy to constantly praise the work of Gyllenhaal. While the film may not work overall, he does what is required of him and gives a strong performance. Watts is a good enough equal for him as well, especially when factoring in her effort to play “mom who is trying”. Lewis is fairly new, but also adds some decent support; regardless of how complicated the film tries to make his character. Lastly, Cooper is just about always good, regardless of how little he really has to do.
Seeing how the film went from touring festivals to having a random release in April, one can see why there wasn’t more of an effort for an awards push. Demolition was made with good intentions, but it has nothing to really offer. There may be some personal inspiration behind this screenplay (written by Bryan Sipe), but there is only so much to take away. It’s decently made and acted, but Demolition can’t quite keep itself together.
Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Clarity/Detail: While only a DVD, Demolition looks great and perfectly polished. Scenes are put into focus particularly well.
Depth: The movie handles depth well enough. The New York location and the shooting style helps the film to explore its area.
Black Levels: Black levels are good and consistent throughout the film. Night time scenes are fine with no real sign of crush. Again, it’s a DVD, so there’s only so much to take away, but this presentation is fine.
Color Reproduction: Colors really pop when needed and look great in a film with a fairly muted color pallet.
Flesh Tones: Facial textures register well enough.
Audio Formats: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Surround Dolby Digital 2.0, French Surround Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Dynamics: The music and dialogue really shine in the movie. When the music is taking the stage it really has great audio presence. All the dialogue is captured with quality as well, dismissing any ambiguity as to what the actors are saying.
Low Frequency Extension: There are some major sequences involving the use of music tracks that play well to the LFE channel.
Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a strong enough mix here for a DVD audio track to help balance out this presentation.
Dialogue Reproduction: All dialogue is clean and clear.
Given how the film was essentially dropped into theaters, it’s not too much of a surprise to find nothing here. Still, not even a standard EPK, let alone a commentary, comes with this disc.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:26)
- Digital HD Copy of the Film
Demolition didn’t set the world on fire when it was released and it doesn’t do much at home either. I’m sure the film will garner its share of fans, but there’s not much here to take away. Fine work, as usual, from Gyllenhaal and some good filmmaking on display, but the film is fairly forgettable. For a DVD, the audio/video presentation is about as good as it can be, but the lack of extras is a letdown. Check it out if you are a big Gyllenhaal fan, but don’t expect a whole lot.
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