Tag Archives: Vallee


6 Apr

Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) pays a demolition crew to let him join in on the destruction

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) pays a demolition crew to let him join in on the destruction

Film-going audiences love a good story about a person whose life has gone askew, who has taken a beating, and who begins the painful yet cathartic process of clawing one’s way back to the top. The tried-and-true trope has appeared in wildly diverse cinematic incarnations over years. There are obligatory sports stories (Rocky, The Natural), but this standard plot is also clearly imbued in Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and the bum-beats-bond trader comedy Trading Places. Enter Jake Gyllenhaal’s latest, Demolition.

Like Life‘s George Bailey, Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhaal) has had his challenges. He’s been up and down so many times it’s hard to keep track of where he’s been and where he’s going. Demolitionbegins with Davis and his wife Julia (Heather Lind) in the middle of a heated conversation as they drive down the avenue. What can we tell? They’re an attractive pair, she’s fiery, and they’ve got a plush luxury ride. And then just like that, boom, out of nowhere another car rips through the passenger side and she’s gone.

In the fractured aftermath we learn that Davis came from the wrong side of the tracks, but married well in Julia; her father (a somber Chris Cooper) runs a successful investment firm and gives his son-in-law a nepotistic roost that he helms well. For all the money and success however, Davis is unanchored, unhappy, and numb. Inside he’s quickly reaching the boiling point. Clearly, he’s a man in need of a therapist. Continue reading


13 Dec

Wild’: Reese Witherspoon finds herself first in dark places, then 1,100-mile hike


“Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s wildly best-selling tale of redemption and re-rooting revolving around her 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail and descent into personal hell that preceded it, has been woven into a gauzy, cinematic veil of enchantment. This is mostly because of what the filmmakers choose not to do – in other hands the result could have been a generic chick flick or, worse, a Hallmark weepy with an A-lister on the bill – and how the narrative is pieced tartly together in an ingenious nonlinear fashion by writer Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”) and editor John Mac McMurphy (a pseudonym assumed by the director Jean-Marc Vallée, pulling double duty). Of course Reese Witherspoon as Strayed also deserves a lion share of the credit.

121114i WildVallée’s not the only person on “Wild” wearing two hats: Witherspoon bought the film rights to Strayed’s memoir and earns a producer’s cred as well. She’s dutiful as Strayed (not the writer’s given name, but the apt name she takes after her personal demons derail her first marriage) setting out on the arduous walkabout to find herself, purge and repent. When we meet her she’s angry at the mountain and nature, having just lost her hiking boots atop a summit, and we flash back to the start of the trek to see Strayed even more naive in the ways of navigating the wild. Continue reading