By William Wolf


Director Jean-Marc Vallée’s film “Demolition” was chosen as the opening night selection of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. It screened after the customary opening night remarks that emphasized that this was the 40th edition of the Festival, with credit given the founders, William Marshall, Dusty Cohl and Henk Van der Kolk.

On the gala occasion, Piers Handling, Director and CEO of the Festival, remarked that without Marshall, Cohl and Van der Kolk, “we wouldn’t be here tonight.” Handling also gave extensive thanks to the various Festival sponsors and others who have contributed to the Festival’s success.

Cameron Bailey, the Festival’s Artistic director, and Michèle Maheux, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, also addressed the crowd, and “Demolition” director Vallée talked extensively about making the film, with various stars and others connected with “Demolition” introduced.

There was reference to when the founders sat around their favorite table in the terrace of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes at the Cannes Festival and planned a Festival of Festivals for Toronto, as it was called at the beginning. All this had special meaning for me, as I was there. In fact, I was hired by the trio to conduct Craft Conferences for the first two years, conferences that had panels of experts talking about the various aspects of filmmaking, such as screening, directing and acting.

In those days Cohl, who was setting up these panels, was flying by the seat of his pants, with everything working out at the last minute, as the major movie companies had not yet been cooperating. But he came through. For the directing panel, there was Frank Capra. For acting, Peter O’Toole showed up. I have been amazed at what has happened since those pioneer days when I see how huge, important and popular the Festival has come to be.

As for the film “Demolition,” the crowd seemed to enjoy it. But while there was no question that the acting was excellent and the plot was intense, I didn’t find everything credible in Bryan Sipe’s screenplay, although the direction was impressive.

The story involves New York investment banker Davis Mitchell, exceedingly well acted by Jake Gyllenhaal, whose wife is killed in an auto accident. He is thrown for an emotional loop, and unable to grieve properly, if there is such a thing as grieving properly, he begins to act irrationally. He is destructive to property and is constantly hostile.

When a vending machine is on the blink, he takes this to heart and writes letters of complaint to the company. They are answered by Karen, given an effective performance by Naomi Watts. Karen, who has a young son, becomes enamored of Davis, with the two becoming more and more entwined.

What bothers me is that it seems very, very strange that a woman with Karen’s intelligence would not run a mile away from someone with the nutty, obnoxious behavior exhibited by Davis. ( A few woman I know tell me I’m wrong—that many women are drawn to such impossible men.) The thrust of the film is arriving at a point at which Davis can finally face his loss more rationally, but there has been a lot of emotional and physical havoc until we arrive at that point. Posted October 8, 2015.


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