Jean-Marc Vallee is Hollywood’s go-to guy for emotionally wrenching films

Jean-Marc Vallees Demolition stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a well-off New Yorker who responds to a sudden loss by taking his.


Jean-Marc Vallees Demolition stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a well-off New Yorker who responds to a sudden loss by taking his world apart piece by piece and striking up an awkward relationship with a single mother (Naomi Watts) who works at a vending-machine company. Its a weird movie, and its likely to prove as divisive in general release as it did when it opened TIFF last fall. I caught up with Vallee during a break from his next project, Big Little Lies, an HBO limited series that reunites him with Wild principals Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

When you brought Wild to TIFF, you were just about to start shooting Demolition, and you told me you werent sure if you were making a drama or a comedy.

Theres a lot of humour in it, but its more of a drama. And under the guise of reflection, of meditation, of grief and loss… its a drama, but its a film that celebrates life and love, and thats what attracted me.

I asked Jake Gyllenhaal after he shot it, and he said he still wasnt sure.

Jake was the right guy to do this. He likes challenges, and hes always trying stuff on the set. He nails the first take, and on the second take he doesnt repeat himself. He does something else. And the third take is something else [again]. I think it served the character, this approach this spontaneous way of being creative. He has a spark in his eye, he has something that you want to follow. And thank god, because in the first 20, 30 minutes you really want to hate this guy.

Yeah, its not an easy role. Hes newly widowed and responding in exactly the way someone shouldnt.

You want to say, Hey, man, your wife just died. Dont fucking make jokes about it and tell me you dont feel anything. Hes fixed on this stupid detail about a hospital vending machine that didnt work when his wife died. He wants a reimbursement. And that shows us how off he is. Everyone else around him is experiencing grief, death, loss. Theyve lost someone who was only 30 years old, and its fucking painful. Its awful. And heres this guy saying he doesnt feel anything. And then the journey -becomes: Okay, how long are you going to keep saying this? It looks like youre afraid of it.

I do understand Daviss impulse to smash things, though. Grief makes you want to punch a hole in a wall.

Thats what cinema and fiction are for. Its there to express it. I like to say also that this is the most rock and roll film Ive ever made and not because of the soundtrack, but because of its spirit. Rock and roll is electric guitars and singing out loud and telling your parents to fuck off. Telling the establishment, Im gonna do this my way, not your way. Its like the Who breaking the shit out of their instruments. Its a rock and roll film.

In that case, I guess The Young Victoria would be your punk movie.

Yeah!

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