Donnie Darko - Directed and Written by Richard Kelly - Sci-fi, Mystery - Rated R
"28 days... 6 hours... 42 minutes... 12 seconds. That... is when the world... will end."
Let me start off by saying: I love this movie.
Donnie Darko's plot is monstrous and at times very hard to understand. To put it as simply as possible, the movie is about a troubled teenager named Donnie who is visited by a bizarre figure in a bunny suit (your eyes don't deceive you--he literally wears a giant rabbit costume) named Frank. This might sound strange and/or cheesy, but the explanation behind it is done really well. Because Donnie seeks out Frank whose voice is protruding into his head, he avoids death at the hands of a fallen jet engine that crashes through his roof and falls directly into his room. Frank informs Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, or to be exact, the time in the quote at the beginning of the review. It's a bone-chilling scene that still lingers in my mind. Frank then instructs Donnie to commit acts of vandalism and destruction, from extreme things like flooding his high school, to more insane fare, such as lodging an axe in the head of the statue in front of his school, and then scrawling "He made me do it" on the ground. If you think that sounds insane, albeit a little cool, then this movie is for you. Donnie becomes interested in time travel through wormholes and discovers more about Frank, and we question if he's just an illusion caused by Donnie's medication or the fact that he's insane, and the plot unfolds from there as the time ticks away. The pacing is brilliant, and by the end it all makes sense. The end of the third viewing, that is.
What a loaded cast we have! Jake Gyllenhal plays the role of Donnie, who, as previously mentioned, is an anti-social, paranoid, medicated teenager with a noble fate and a man in a rabbit suit (who may or may not be real) commanding him to commit acts of vandalism and crime. Gyllenhal plays the role extremely well, attributing a good mix of immature, teen quirkiness and an eerie, grim seriousness, without ever overacting. James Duval, playing the role of Frank, adds a horrifying uneasiness to the movie that slowly sinks in and remains in the pit of your stomach, while somehow remaining a very likable character. Maybe it's the bunny suit. Drew Barrymore plays a visionary, right-brained professor at Donnie's school. I feel like she adds a lot to the movie, and I would've liked to see her get a bit more screen time. Donnie's friends are portrayed as average high school students, which really brings out the differences between Donnie and the typical teen. Patrick Swayzee's fantastic as Jim Cunningham. And Donnie's family is simply hilarious. His father, played by Holmes Osbourne, is a great character who just stuck with me for some reason.
A Theatrical Trailer
It's very hard to complain about this movie once you fully understand the depth of the plot and the universe of Donnie Darko. Notice how I said "once you understand." Actually understanding this epic can be very difficult. I, myself, read a few FAQS online after watching it a few times so I could truly take it all in. Basically, the plot becomes very confusing and maybe a little convoluted at times. My mom watched the movie with me the second time I saw it, and she was more than a little confused at the ending and had some questions for me.
When it comes down to it, this is a seriously breathtaking movie. Its quality is just downright unbelievable at times to be honest. The plot does become a little confusing, especially with the conclusion, but the combination of so many brilliant elements such as dark humor, horror, and drama instill this movie in the hearts of many as a precious work of art. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite films. Oh, and the music is fantastically atmospheric.
So which version should you watch? The Director's Cut or the original? Well, that depends. The original leaves much of the meaning of the events to the viewer's own imagination, opening it for your interpretation. The Director's Cut is actually easier to understand and contains about 20 minutes of extra footage. I'll leave the decision up to you, but I prefer the DC.
So, what's my rating? I give it a perfect five stars. On a numeric scale, I'd say it's a 97.5/100. Definitely worth your time.
Did you know?
- The black-and-white poster in Donnie's room, of an eye reflecting a skull, is a reproduction of an etching by the artist M.C. Escher.
- This is Seth Rogen's feature film debut. He plays the accomplice of the main bully.
- The part of Donnie was reportedly turned down by Vince Vaughn. Jason Schwartzman (of Rushmore fame) was strongly considered but ultimately dropped out. Mark Wahlberg showed interest in the part, but wouldn't accept unless he could speak with a lisp. Weird, huh? Doesn't matter anyway. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than Gyllenhaal.