A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Demolition is a dramedy about a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) learning how to live again after his wife's death. In addition to a deadly car crash, it has guns and shooting (a teen fires the weapon), some brutal punching and pummeling (with bloody wounds resulting), and a scene in which furniture, appliances, walls, and windows are smashed with sledgehammers and other tools Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A teen smokes cigarettes and drinks beer, and an adult character is a regular pot smoker (her dealer is shown in one scene). There's additional social drinking and drug references as well. Characters make verbal references to sex, and there's a shot of the main character, naked, on the toilet (nothing sensitive is shown).
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What's the story?
Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal), who works for his father-in-law (Chris Cooper) in a financial firm, is devastated when his wife, Julia (Heather Lind), dies in a car accident. Distracted, Davis tries to buy a snack from the hospital vending machine, which steals his money; he ends up writing letters to the manufacturer's complaint department, telling his entire life story. To his surprise, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) -- a company representative who was moved by his letters -- calls him. Davis forms a strange friendship with her and with her confused son, Chris (Judah Lewis). He also becomes obsessed with taking things apart, from the household appliances to eventually the house itself. Can Davis get in touch with what's missing from his heart?
Is it any good?
Only about halfway successful, this quirky drama has fine performances and many moments of appealing sweetness, but it also suffers from ill-fitting tonal choices and heavy-handed metaphors. The story and themes are strikingly similar to those of the bittersweet dramedy About Schmidt, but in DEMOLITION, director Jean-Marc Vallee -- whose films (The Young Victoria, Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) are usually pitched at Oscar voters -- opts for hand-held cinematography with a grayish, overcast feel, nullifying most of the potential comedy or warmth.
Vallee ticks off the appropriate points on the main character arc's, but he fails to discover who Davis actually is. Where we should find sympathy for Davis' mourning, we're instead slightly alarmed by his behavior. The actors often rise above the material through sheer personality and goodwill, but then the use of metaphor kicks into high gear, and the movie leaves us with more message than feeling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is Davis' expression of grief unusual? Is it OK to mourn differently from the "usual" ways? What other movies and TV shows can you think of that have handled the grieving process?
Why do you think Karen smokes pot? What does she get out of it? What is she trying to fix?
What does the "demolition" metaphor mean in the story? Why does the character break things?