First Hit: There were strong and weak aspects to this film, however I liked the concept of tearing things apart so that one can rebuild one's life.
Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist, wrote a book called “When Things Fall Apart.”
The beginning of this film reminded me of this book. Sometimes when things in our life fall apart (internally or externally), it can be a calling to deconstruct one’s life so that it can be re-built with more mindfulness and understanding.
Now this might sound too philosophical when writing about a film where the main character loses his wife in an auto accident and due to a malfunctioning vending machine, he decides to look at his life.
Here Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Julia (Heather Lind) are driving and get into an accident. She dies, he lives, and as he begins to view his life, he realizes that he didn’t really know his wife or his life. To find out more he begins by tearing his physical possessions apart. It starts with his refrigerator, then computer, then his house. These are funny and cathartic scenes.
Opening to viewing what he feels inside, two outside influences push him along; his father-in-law and boss Phil (Chris Cooper) and Karen (Naomi Watts) the vending machine customer service representative. Additionally, she has a son, Chris (Judah Lewis), who is struggling being a teenager and together, Davis and the boy learn valuable life lessons.
Gyllenhaal is strong and ever present in his scenes. There is a scene where he’s listening to a song he and Chris created together while walking down the street in NYC. Watching him free dance down the street, one can sense the amazing versatility and skills he has as an actor. Watts character wasn’t as clearly defined and was probably set up this way to bring her son’s confused life into focus. Lewis was very strong and very good in his role as a confused 15-year-old young man. Cooper was very good as the strong determined man who held his daughter in very high regard. Bryan Sipe wrote and interesting script with a great concept. Jean-Marc Vallee directed this story in some creative ways and I loved the bit about buying anything on Ebay.
Overall: This wasn’t a great film but, for me, the point of the story was set early on and I bought into the way it was presented.