After his wife’s death, a man slowly begins to destroy their home, and in some ways his life. All the while, he gets involved with a woman who he vented to expecting no reply and her son who treats him as perhaps an older brother.
Minor blood due to a car accident and a nail through the foot
You know, I have no idea why I read reviews, especially when I write them myself on a fairly regular basis. For I was honestly going to just skip this movie. Which, in some ways, I think I would have regretted solely due to the fact I would have prolonged seeing Judah Lewis’ performance. Outside of Mr. Lewis though, I’m not going to lie, I feel like this is the type of movie only worth seeing just to have an excuse to get out of the house.
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
With the death of Davis’ (Jake Gyllenhaal) wife Julia (Heather Lind) so begins an awakening of sorts. For after many years of marriage, in which it seemed he settled into an easy routine, it seems he has begun to realize he didn’t love his wife nor loves his current life. I mean, is he good at making money at his father in law Phil’s (Chris Cooper) firm? Yes. However, does it make him feel alive, happy, and fulfilled? Seemingly no.
Thankfully, though, as he decides to start taking his life apart piece by piece, including every appliance his tool belt, and a sledgehammer, can break apart, so comes Karen (Naomi Watts). Someone who starts off simply as a worried customer service agent who calls him due to his complaint letter over a vending machine, but eventually evolves into a friend. Yes, despite what you may think, she doesn’t become a love interest but just a close friend. But perhaps the best thing which comes with Karen is her son Chris (Judah Lewis). The kid, who in my opinion outdid everyone in terms of being memorable, is someone who seemingly grew up without a dad, is very much into rock music, and is questioning what his sexuality is. Now, while Davis can’t necessarily answer that, he does present an opportunity for Chris to be himself and you can see a cute relationship form. Yet, in the long run, the film isn’t about Davis and Chris but Davis trying to work through his marital issues and that fact is rather unfortunate.
The main thing I enjoyed was Chris to be perfectly honest. The way Lewis played him and with lines like “I heard the dinner bell” when the smoke alarm goes off, to me drew me in more than anything Davis said or did. I mean, like after watching Bridge to Terabithia a long time ago, and since then seeing damn near everything AnnaSophia Robb has been in, I feel like this movie for Lewis is what surely will be the hook for his future fan base. He brought the right amount of sass, vulnerability, and really made a character which could have been another eye roll inducing performance from a child to one of the people you wanted to see more of. Hell, a part of me wishes this film was from his point of view or about Chris rather than Davis.
Though only a small factor, I also liked Chris’ music taste. I’m seriously looking up on IMDB what the songs were and trying to find a few to download them (they don’t list any but a No Doubt song [-_-])
Reason being, I just felt like we aren’t given much of a reason to care about Davis, Phil, nor Karen to a certain point. Yes, Julia’s death hangs over Davis and Phil and you gotta feel for Phil since he lost his daughter tragically, but then comes the following issues. For one, Davis seemingly only married his wife because it seemed like the next logical step and he stayed with her because it was easy. On top of that, while we see a bunch of cute little post-its from Julia, and little flashbacks, largely we don’t get to know her as a person and get to make a decision if we like her. Also, once we are told she had an affair, much less her mom knew and didn’t care, slowly but surely you begin to wonder if the only reason so much good is being said is because she died.
Going back to Phil, there comes a point where you realize he is a butt hole. It probably begins with him saying he doesn’t like Davis, and it continues as you realize anything he feels for Davis is solely because his daughter would want him to. Which is a welcome difference between what most movies do in terms of presenting an 180-degree turn in which the father-in-law grows to like his new son, but over the course of nearly 2 hours, it gets old quick.
Lastly, when it comes to Davis, I think the problem isn’t necessarily Gyllenhaal per se, but more so the people and characters he has to play off of. Karen and Davis’ relationship started out a bit too weird to get into, and when it comes to Davis and Julia, there isn’t enough given to really see them as an enviable couple. Then when it comes to Davis’ in-laws, with every struggle they make to try to be nice to Davis, and then learning how Phil didn’t like Davis and Julia’s mom not only knew Julia was having an affair but wished Julia kept the baby, there is a large piece of the film you just sit through. Not in such a way in which you are checking your watch, but you are left feeling like “where is this going exactly?” Making where the sole saving grace is between Davis and Chris for those scenes are really the only time when it seems this movie isn’t just a bunch of actors talking, and Davis destroying stuff but is actually dealing with human emotion and trying to portray the complexities of it.