Gretchen: “You’re weird.”
Gretchen: “No, it was a compliment.”
DIRECTED BY: Richard Kelly
FEATURING: Jake Gyllenhaal, , Mary McDonnel, , , Kathryn Ross
PLOT: Troubled teen Donnie sees visions of a six foot tall demonic bunny rabbit named Frank, who demands that he commit acts of vandalism in a sleepy suburban town in 1988. Donnie narrowly escapes a freak accident when a jet engine crashes into his bedroom after Frank has awoken him and called him away. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, on Halloween night, and Donnie attempts to figure out what he can do to save the world while simultaneously dealing with a new girlfriend, bullies, a motivational speaker he sees as a cult leader, and ever-escalating hallucinations.
- This was the first feature film for writer/director Richard Kelly.
- With Barrymore, Swayze and Ross attached, there was a tremendous buzz for the film going into the Sundance Festival. The movie was not a hit at there, however, and was only picked up for limited theatrical distribution by Newmarket Films at the last moment.
- Although Donnie Darko was initially a flop on its domestic release, a strong showing overseas helped it to nearly break even. The film then became a cult hit on video, earning back more than double its production cost.
- The director’s cut, containing about 20 minutes of extra footage and including pages from the fictional book “The Philosophy of Time Travel,” was released in 2004. It was controversial due to the added footage, which caused some fans to complain that Kelly didn’t seem to understand his own movie.
- Kelly created a website (now hosted at donniedarkofilm.com), which is structured like a puzzle. Navigating the website can reveal supplemental material and backstory to the film.
- Donnie Darko is one of the most talked about films on the Internet, with several competing fan sites and FAQ’s that attempt to clarify and explain the convoluted plot.
- Followed by a poorly received direct-to-video sequel about Donnie’s sister called S. Darko (2009), which angered many fans.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Frank, the six-foot tall man dressed in a twisted, metallic bunny suit, who only Donnie can see.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Donnie Darko at first appears to be a dizzying collision of genres, themes and ideas. For the first few reels of the film, the audience can have no conception where the film is heading. The director drops clues through these opening segments that appear at the time to be simply bizarre, but spark numerous “a-ha!” moments later, when incidents that seemed like throwaway moments or coincidences at the first glance turn out to make a sort of sense. The identity of Frank, the demonic bunny, is the most thrillingly chilling such moment. Donnie Darko creates a sense of wonder and mystery throughout its running time, and sparks hope and faith in the watcher that all will be made clear before the curtain drops. It nests this expectancy inside a bed of genuine empathy for tormented Donnie and his colorful cast of supporting characters. But perhaps the weirdest thing about Donnie Darko is that it asks us to take its plot at face value; it works very hard to try to convince us that what appear on the surface to be the hallucinations of a paranoid schizophrenic teenager are, in fact, real occurrences with a metaphysical explanation.
Trailer for Donnie Darko
COMMENTS: Even putting the mindbending plot aside for a moment (we’ll come back to Continue reading 8. DONNIE DARKO (2001)