Every once in a while, a special kind of movie comes along and influences filmmakers and viewers for years to come. Donnie Darko, a trippy coming-of-age blend of drama, mystery, and science fiction is such a movie. Its visual style, atmosphere, and storytelling captured the moody beginning of the new century. And fears that it will be just like the shitty old century, only shittier. However, that’s just one take of it. Since Donnie Darko is very ambiguous, you can interpret it in many different ways.
And this is the best thing about it. It’s completely open to any kind of interpretation and as such, it can help you figure out what’s going on in your life. It can help you understand things about yourself, others, and the world we live in. And although the setting is distinctly American, I believe it’s applicable no matter where you live. People are people and there’s no running away from them. I remember talking to my friends, trying to convince them that my theory is the One. And then, several months later, I completely changed my opinion.
Donnie Darko exists in its own weird realm between reality and fiction. However, it does have a rather straightforward story. It follows a troubled teen trying to figure out what’s going on with the world, other people, and himself. Is he psychotic, delusional, or something else? Are we looking at a brilliant scientist, a talented poet, or a serial killer? Maybe all three wrapped in one moody package? Oddly enough, Jake Gyllenhaal who plays Donnie in this movie, said after the filming was complete that he doesn’t understand what this movie is about.
Meet Donald Darko, a troubled teen living in the suburbs and trying to figure out life. His quest takes a strange turn when he hears a strange voice and wakes up. After he went outside, he was greeted by a huge rabbit-like creature who informs him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. This sets off a series of strange events that will take him on a journey of a lifetime.
You have to be in a special mood for Donnie Darko. Otherwise, you will think that it’s not that good, but it is. Yes, it’s got that troubled adolescent thing, and the effects are average (not bad, just average) but the story is just amazing. It will keep pushing you to watch the movie again and again in an effort to catch all the clues. We’ve got strange life-size rabbits, time travel, airplane crashes, and finally, the end of the fucking world. It’s a lot of elements to take in and piece together.
Luckily, young Jake Gyllenhaal and his older sister Maggie are here to help us with that. Donnie Darko was also the first feature film for our man Seth Rogen. His first line was: “I like your boobs”. Classic Rogen. Now, this is also not a perfect movie. You can feel the complex structure with sudden twists slowly collapsing under its weight. However, even that can be used to describe life itself. To describe the unbearable lightness of being to quote Milan Kundera.
During the nineties, we had the opportunity to check out a couple of these really subversive movies like Kids and American Beauty. The early 2000s, however, brought us not only this movie, but also The Chumscrubber, Ken Park, and Mysterious Skin. If we’re talking about coming-of-age movies. If we’re talking about movies where the line between reality and dreams, or nightmares, is blurred, we have to mention The Machinist and Mr. Nobody. I should also mention that there’s a sequel to this movie S Darko, done without the involvement of Richard Kelly who wrote and directed the original.
If you want to see more of his movies, check out Southland Tales and especially The Box. Finally, did you know that the first logo for Rabbit Reviews was the rabbit from this movie? Not only it looked weird, I also thought it represented what this site is about. A strange realm existing in a strange place that could bring all the strange strangers together.
Director: Richard Kelly
Writer: Richard Kelly
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Fun Stuff: Jake Gyllenhaal rarely blinks as Donnie Darko to make his character feel even weirder and creepier.