Tools (Reflections on Demolition)

Last night this three-day weekend started with a viewing of Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts.  I think I was probably one of the five people who actually saw it in the theater when it dropped this past spring.  It’s the kind of movie that, were I in my mid-twenties, I’d take multiple friends for a viewing.  The movie, trailer below, plays out a bit like Fight Club for the financial district (that and underground fighting is replaced with sledgehammers and screwdrivers).

For all of the power tools and house destruction, there’s an subtlety to the movie.  It happens in particular scenes: conversations about work on the commuter train, conversations about foul language at the kitchen table, inner monologues that surprise you in direction they take.

One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Gyllenhaal’s character, Davis, starts to wonder if his whole life has become a metaphor (am I the fallen tree?  am I the wind that fell the tree?).  From early in the movie, you get the sense that the movie is about a young man who has (supposedly) been given tools to fix things.  But when things fall apart, he uses the tools to take things even farther.  The question, then, is what you can do to put things back together again.  In its way, it’s a generational story about emptiness and loss and, well, the inability to pass on the kinds of tools that matter and can make a life.

In my humble estimation, the only weakness to the movie is its need to go in a romantic direction (and the unexpected by-product that comes with that).  I suppose that’s a big part of trying to sell any movie that’s not an action flick these days.

It’s an odd hero’s journey, one quite illuminating at its best.  It takes an interesting (though potentially questionable) approach to grief (of the lack thereof).  It’s not necessarily the kind of movie you’d watch often.  But once in a while, in a world unaware of its need for repair, it’s something good to think through.

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