When humor is served black, they call it dramedy. When it’s done in this movie, I call it indigestible. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Davis Mitchell, a sleazy Wall Street banker who can’t feel anything when his unfaithful wife (Heather Lind) is hurt in a car crash. At the hospital, just before she dies, Davis tries to buy a bag of Peanut M&Ms from a vending machine. When the bag gets stuck, Davis is crushed. He begins writing letters to the company in charge of maintaining the machine. “I think you deserve the whole story,” he says. Get it? The letters are a way of expressing his grief.
Davis can’t let his emotions out. His boss and father-in-law (Chris Cooper) cries like a baby. Not Davis. He opens up a bit to Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), a lonely mom who works at a vending machine company. It’s an appalling plot contrivance that made me want to write a letter to the producers. And there are more, many more.
Davis stays numb until he decides to demolish things. His father-in-law gave him the idea by saying, “If you want to fix something, you have to take it apart and put it back together.” So there goes Jake, first by quitting his job and joining a wrecking crew and then by taking apart his posh suburban home with a sledgehammer, often while grooving to classic rock suggested by Karen’s snarky son, Chris (Judah Lewis). Are you laughing yet?
Gyllenhaal does his best to find the fun and the feeling in Brian Sipe’s quirk-riddled script. But director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) keeps pounding the point that Davis must destroy his old self to build a new one. It would be funny if it wasn’t so profoundly unprofound.