'Demolition' Isn't A True Story, But The Jake Gyllenhaal Dramedy Smashes Expectations

Jake Gyllenhaal had a busy 2015 with his roles in Southpaw and Everest, but his 2016 is already looking even crazier. The actor's new film, Demolition, in select theaters Apr. 8, finds him as a wealthy investment banker who is a shell of his former self following the tragic death of his wife. Naomi Watts costars as a sympathetic customer service rep who forms a bond with Gyllenhaal's Davis, and with her help, he rebuilds his life in a way that looks drastically different from his previous existence. It's a story of loss, mourning, self-exploration, and rebirth, and while that might sound like the stuff of real life, Demolition isn't based on a true story.

The movie's plotline comes from the mind of Bryan Sipe, the same screenwriter who adapted Nicholas Sparks' The Choice for film last year. In a recent interview with Variety, Sipe explained that the story was inspired by his own experiences with both the physical activity of demolition and its metaphor for loneliness. Recalling the days he spent working for his father's construction company, Sipe said, “It was really lonely work. You feel so disconnected and you see this debris around you, and that’s what my life felt like at the time.” This loneliness apparently cropped up again when Sipe was a struggling writer in Hollywood, as he told Variety, “I would look around and feel this emptiness, and it just reminded me of those days when I was standing with 2x4s and stepping on nails that were going through my feet.”

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But that emptiness became the inspiration for Demolition, which is Sipe's first original full-length screenplay. The film looks at the emptiness inside Davis both before and after his wife's death. His life before the accident is relatively devoid of meaning, but this fact is concealed by the fact that everything seems picturesque. It isn't until after he loses the most important thing in his life that Davis' emotional handicap comes to the surface. There is no doubt that the man is grieving, but he is unable to cry.

In this way, according to HitFix, Sipes and director Jean-Marc Vallée sought to challenge viewers' preconceived notions about what the grieving process should and does look like for different people. Instead of sobbing and outwardly displaying the gravity of his loss, Davis writes a letter to a vending machine company to complain that their machine at the hospital ate his money the night that his wife died. His letter ends up in the hands of Naomi Watts' character, and as an unlikely friendships blooms, Davis' healing process begins. And, as the title would imply, it's a healing process that involves a lot of smashing, destroying, and even bulldozing.

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But more importantly than all the smashing, according to Vallée, is the film's emphasis on recovery through connection and passion. The director told Monsters and Critics, "In the guise of the meditation on grief, and the study on grief and loss, it’s a film that celebrates life." As Davis builds a new life for himself from the ground up, he rediscovers what it means to feel alive. And that feeling is something that money can't buy. Although, having the funds to purchase a bulldozer may help.

Image: Fox Searchlight