Posted on April 7, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexual references, drug use, and disturbing behavior
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, drugs, smoking (by a young teenager)
Violence/ Scariness: Fatal car crash, guns, dangerous and destructive behavior
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 8, 2016

Copyright Fox Searchlight 2016
Copyright Fox Searchlight 2016
As the title suggests, this is a movie about taking things apart, literally and spiritually. And Jake Gyllenhaal gives a performance of shattering intensity as Davis, a finance executive whose wife is killed in a car accident.

At the hospital, he puts five quarters into a vending machine, which fails to deliver the peanut M&Ms he has selected. So he goes home and writes a long, detailed letter of complaint to the vending machine company. And then another one. And then another one. And then another one.

And he begins to take things apart. Screenwriter Bryan Sipe says the idea was inspired by the time he spent knocking down damaged houses for his father’s insurance company. Davis says he feels numb. He says he did not really know his wife. And he really wants satisfaction for that undelivered bag of peanut M&Ms.

His father-in-law, also his boss (Chris Cooper, who played Gyllenhaal’s dad in “October Sky”), is devastated. He immediately plans a tribute to his daughter and wants Davis to support it. But Davis just wants to take things apart.

A call from the complaints department at the vending machine company leads to an adventure. Davis ends up spending time with an angry teenager (Judah Lewis) who has been suspended from school. They do things that would get him expelled and probably arrested. Those scenes are the best in the film as the kid who feels too much meets the adult who cannot feel at all.

The film, directed by “Dallas Buyers Club’s” Jean-Marc Vallee, is uneven but arresting and impressively ambitious. He maintains a fascinating, heightened tone that never interferes with the real humanity of the characters. Gyllenhaal, long one of the most underrated actors, shows once again that he can take on an exceptionally challenging role and bring enormous depth and authenticity. More important, even before Davis is able to connect to his own feelings, he is able to connect to ours.

Parents should know that this film includes a sad death, fatal accident, very strong language, drinking, drugs, smoking (by a child), sexual references including adultery, destructive and dangerous behavior, and guns.

Family discussion: Why did Davis write the letters? What do we learn from his decision about how best to honor his wife?

If you like this, try: “Donnie Darko”

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