Out Now On-Demand
Following his Oscar-nominated films Wild and Dallas Buyers Club, filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée directs Jake Gyllenhaal in this comedic drama about an investment banker struggling to deal with the recent death of his wife. His grieving plan: demolishing and rebuilding his house. Co-stars Naomi Watts, Heather Lind (Broadwalk Empire) and Oscar-winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation).
Rating: M Offensive language, sexual references & drug references
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That might mean your wife. And that might make you realise that you don’t give a shit about your marriage. That’s the issue Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) faces as he remains emotionally numb to the fact while everyone else mourns like a ‘normal’ person. He recognises his apparent apathy, but doesn’t know where it stems from, triggering an obsession with deconstructing things – his fridge, his boss’s lamp, the F word – in the lead-up to pulling the plunger on his identity.
As the widowed investment banker, Gyllenhaal’s role is deceptively tough. He’s given very few times to emote (but avoids going full Nightcrawler) since the material purposely defies the audience a definitive opportunity to sympathise or even recognise his grief. However, that’s also what makes the character interesting. Grief is hardly ever portrayed on-screen in this abstract way, and director Jean-Marc Vallée uses his glorious time-weaving intercutting skills (which were so effective in Wild) to provide building blocks that let us pick this man apart.
The problem is that there simply isn’t enough for us to work with. The flashbacks feel slightly limited and the tension between Davis and his boss/father-in-law (Chris Cooper) isn’t given enough time to truly sting. Muffling the story further is his friendship with an underwritten mother (Naomi Watts) and her troubled son, a seen-it-all-before subplot which doesn’t feel all that significant to the story.
This doesn’t make the film a failure, per se, since it still allows Davis to let loose his positive means of self-destruction (a controlled demolition, if you will). It just prevents an entertainingly intriguing character study from being engrossingly fascinating.
Time Out New York
Herald Sun (Australia)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
NZ Herald (Francesca Rudkin)