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“Demolition” is another strong outing for Jake Gyllenhaal

Demolition Jake Gyllenhaal
I think it’s pretty hard to argue that Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t among the absolute top tier of actors in Hollywood right now. For the last few years, he’s been delivering one tremendous performance after the other. He hasn’t yet connected with the Academy on that second Oscar nomination so far, but was close with Nightcrawler for sure. This week, he has another strong performance to submit for consideration in Demolition, a quirkier movie than usual for him, but a fascinating one, to say the least. It has received mixed reviews so far, but I’m quite fond of it, and actually would list it as one of my favorite films of the year. With the release upon us, I felt it was only appropriate to discuss the flick a bit.

The film is a quirky dramedy centering around how we deal with grief. Davis (Gyllenhaal) is a successful investment banker who seems to be living the good life, but in the aftermath of a car accident that kills his wife, he finds himself unable to express any emotion. Clearly struggling, his father in law Phil (Chris Cooper) encourages him to make an effort, which leads to him quite literally taking his life apart. At the same time, Davis is writing a series of compliant letters to a vending machine company that are mostly just confessions, leading him to meet the customer service rep (Naomi Watts) and her son (Judah Lewis). From there, healing can slowly begin. The film is written by Bryan Sipe and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with the core of the cast made up of Gyllenhaal, Cooper, Lewis, and Watts. Supporting turns are given by Heather Lind, C.J. Wilson, and more.

Demolition Jake Gyllenhaal-2

For me, what really works here is Gyllenhaal’s performance. He essays a character quite different than any that he’s put forward before. Quieter, but no less instance, he makes Davis a fascinating mess to follow around for about two hours. The supporting players, specifically Cooper and Lewis, are strong too, but this is very much the Gyllenhaal show. He’s the reason that this is as good as it is. I liked the screenplay that Sipe came up with and watching Vallée direct something very different than usual was a pleasure as well, but Gyllenhaal sells the whole package perfectly. I remain very excited to see what he chooses to do next.

Awards wise, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle for Demolition to score anywhere, though I suppose you can’t count out Gyllenhaal. If this manages to be a bigger player than expected, perhaps we’ll see campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Vallée), Best Actor (for Gyllenhaal), Best Supporting Actor (for Cooper and/or Lewis), Best Supporting Actress (for Watts), Best Original Screenplay (for Sipe), and Best Film Editing. To be sure, it’s likely Gyllenhaal or bust, with an outside chance of Sipe’s Original Screenplay catching on. This will be a good test of how due Gyllenhaal is seen to be. If he’s overdue, we might see an Academy Award nomination come his way here. That being said, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Starting today, audiences can begin to check out Demolition and see how it appeals to them. Critics like myself are split on it, but personally I loved it, and moreover I think we can all agree that Gyllenhaal is superb here. If you’re a fan of his, I think it’s well worth seeing. If the film does strong business and manages to get a bit of Oscar buzz, I’m sure we’ll wind up discussing it more. For now though, it’s out this week and is a treat for Gyllenhaal fans. If you trust my judgment, trust me when I say it’s pretty good stuff…

Be sure to check out Demolition, opening in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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