This is exactly how I felt watching Demolition. Now, it is impossible for me to have seen this film before now, with it being a preview screening. However, Demolition felt so familiar that I mapped out the entire story in my head before it unfolded on-screen. The movie goes through all the paces that movies with a similar story would, leaving nearly nothing original for the audience to be shocked by.
Demolition follows Davis (played by Jake Gyllenhaal of End of Watch fame), an investment banker whose wife Julie tragically dies in a car accident. This causes Davis to rethink his entire life, uprooting whatever he once thought was important and replacing it with what feels right. This pairs him with Karen (Naomi Watts of Birdman), a customer service representative at a vending machine company, with whom he forms a strange but endearing friendship.
My major issue with the film is how piecemealed the whole thing feels. Every element of the movie seems to be very closely emulating some other similar drama, which saves little space for imagination or innovation. Gyllenhaal’s performance, while quite good, feels like something he has done before. Davis is a socially awkward and bottled up person, and the death of his wife allows him to become more of a free spirit. Imagine his role in Nightcrawler, but remove all the creepiness and tension which made that performance interesting. His relationship with Karen feels like a watered-down version of the relationship between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannsson’s characters in Lost in Translation. Most other elements of the film seemed equally familiar.
Now, if you don’t mind the familiarity of the plot and characters, the film is quite good otherwise. The performances are good, the cinematography interesting enough and the editing does a solid job of making you feel like you are in the mind of a man who doesn’t have a firm grasp on anything. Unfortunately, for me at least, this is not enough to make a satisfying movie. The story and characters are too familiar to be interesting, which ends up making the drama of the situation feel lackluster. If some of the generic nature of the story could have been trimmed off and replaced with a more original story, Demolition could have been a great film. But the movie suffers far too heavily from its bland nature to reach its potential.