Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition gets pushed to April 2016, colour me confused

If there’s a film I’ve been waiting with absolute, insane anticipation for, it’s Demolition, the new film from Quebecois director (and one of my favourites), Jean-Marc Vallee.

Yep, that guy and that film. The one I never stop talking about.

After waiting with baited breath for the past few weeks to no avail for a trailer (WildJean-Marc Vallee’s previous film, got a trailer last June) or a release date, Demolition has finally had its fate uncovered, and it’s…interesting.

Previously thought to be a major Oscar contender (Vallee is a recent Academy favourite, awards experts Fox Searchlight are distributing, the plot promises for plenty of showy material), Demolition has been moved squarely out of awards contention altogether to April 8, 2016. It was even thought to be a frontrunner (along with Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight) to open the Toronto Film Festival, which is probably looking to line up a massive (and probably Canadian in some capacity) drawcard after a few embarrassing openers and closers (who remembers The Fifth Estate, where Benedict Cumberbatch played Julian Assange?).

But…say what now? Why move a film that already had considerable Oscar buzz?

Ever since Searchlight found unexpected first quarter success with period drama Belle in 2013, they’ve cottoned onto the fact that with the right marketing, specialty releases can do well outside the window of October to March, where cinemagoers are accustomed to having prestige titles overflowing in the cinemas. They did the same strategy with Far From the Madding Crowd, a very good film from Oscar nominee Thomas Vinterberg, but nonetheless one that was not going to be a  hit with the Academy and likely get lost in the end-of-year shuffle as a result, and won yet again (the film has taken nearly $25 million worldwide).

However, neither of those were in talk for serious Oscar buzz. Demolition was already safely in the middle of many a sight unseen Best Picture prediction list, assumed to be taking a seat at the table come awards season. If you can achieve that, not being seen as a frontrunner (in which case, the only way is down, just look at Unbroken last year) or a complete unknown, that’s possibly the best position to be in. You have just the right amount of attention, able to slip in and quietly work your way up the ranks, like Birdman this year, which did the majority of its climbing late in the race.

Of course, Demolition has not yet been seen outside test screenings. We could all be wrong. It could be way out of the Academy’s wheelhouse, predictions have been wrong before. Why spend cash and time on a campaign if you’re not going to get anywhere? Read the plot summary below:

Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father in law Phil (Chris Cooper) to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts) and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.

It sounds much more Cafe de Flore than Dallas Buyers Club   (which, in my opinion, is where Vallee turns out his best , yet most divisive work) a film sure to divide and annoy no end. In other words, not something you want at the Oscars.

If it were any other situation, I’d be going with quality and frantic re-editing as the reason, except it has been finished and rated by the MPAA for months. So, I’m going with playing space. Searchlight are already lining up Brooklyn and Youth as their Oscar contenders, films which will have massive play with the Academy (the former is 1950s New York set, the latter is introspective about the industry) and are not particularly divisive  (or controversial, for that matter) within the general public and the Academy.

In any case, Harvey Weinstein’s Cannes bet that Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Southpaw is going to nab him a nomination just got more realistic. Let the waiting for a trailer for Demolition continue.

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