Reviews of Donnie Darko
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Too many components of this film lack logic or deny a proper cause and effect relationship for the sake of convenient storytelling.
- How was tangent universe created? Why is the epicenter of this “parallel”(opposite of tangent, which is defined as perpendicular) located over Donnie’s bedroom instead being congruent to the existing universe?
- How are manipulated dead created during the initial timeline, before the living receiver has had their guidance? Manipulated Dead Frank would never exist because he is a requirement for his own creation; a conundrum and logical fallacy that contradicts the physics of reality.
- What purpose did the burning of Jim Cunningham’s house serve in respect to correcting the TU? This plot element seems only to be purely thematic.
-Why was said Artifact created? Was the initial turbine from the (quite conveniently for the story) mothers plane? Is so, then this item suffers the same fallacy as Frank’s ghost. If not, and it is initially a separate turbine that was identical in construction, then why would Donnie need to sacrifice himself with the other? Actually…
-Why does Donnie need to sacrifice himself at all? If the wormhole is his own construction, than he can opt to have the exit portal located somewhere other than his house.
-If Donnie had resolved the Tangent Universe, than why would another Turbine , or Artifact, spontaneously drop when the Primary Universe resumes? Wouldn’t this indicate a Tangent Universe? Why didn’t two turbines fall on his house this time? If there was only ever a single turbine, from the mother’s jet, than how did it complete the wormhole at the start of the film, before Donnie’s prescribed intervention?
- Currently 2.0/5 Stars.
Richard Kelly’s debut feature is an intricate and unforgettable character study of a tortured young soul. The story centres on troubled Donnie Darko, who is played to shocking conviction by the then unknown Jake Gylennhaal now known for films like Jarhead and Zodiac, but it’s Donnie Darko he will ultimately be remembered for. His performance is nothing less than incredible. The way he portrays the character shocks and chills me on every single viewing. He takes his character and creates a whole new meaning to the word scary.
Richard Kelly’s writing is as intricate and intelligent as the presentation of the rest of his characters. He tells the story so powerfully, while not saying all too much. And that, for me, is a truely unthinkable indication of a filmmaker with extraordinary talent.
The mysteries and boundaries that Donnie Darko pushes are absorbing, unique and quite frankly mesmerizing. Even as the film concludes we are left with several mysteries open, and although as seemingly insignificant as they are they feel vital to the plot. And that’s one of the films true powers. These riveting and classy methods of keeping the mysteries hidden are a fantastic technique for the film to continue infiltrating the mind of the audience even after the credits roll.
The soundtrack is nothing short of incredible too. For people that grew up in the 80’s, this is an extraordinary way to bring back those memories of childhood and the music that was produced in that decade. Featured in the soundtrack are Echo & the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and INXS. But what is more significant to me is the inclusion of Joy Division’s poetic masterpiece ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. This is the film that introduced me to this song, and I can’t express my gratitude enough to it simply for the inclusion of that 3 and a half minutes of romance and pain. Joy Division are now one of my all-time favourite bands. All of the soundtrack possesses that power and the mood and tension of the film fits the soundtrack like a glove.
The director’s cut adds several valid scenes and tones to the film, even with the slightest of things, namely the title cards showing the contents of the Philosophy of Time Travel book. It adds a whole new darkness and meaning to the film that for decades and decades will surely tremble and move the audience in hundreds of different ways.
I first saw Donnie Darko about a year after it’s release when my older brother bought it. At that first viewing at just under ten, I was hooked, mesmerised and transcended into Richard Kelly’s unique and poetic method of storytelling. And every time that I rewatch it, it still sends shivers up my spine and the conclusion still shocks and grabs my attention even for that brief moment.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
The film Donnie Darko observes a reality where expression is lost and suppressed by the will of the many. Donnie Darko takes a simple story of love and sacrifice and combines it with one of the most complex screenplays ever developed tying in religion, scientific phenomenon and the essence of love. Donnie is a boy isolated in a world of suppression where expression is controlled by the will of the many and tailored to the wants of the community as a whole. The movie is essentially an observation of Donnie’s ability to break away from the constraints of his society and to show his eventual freedom from it. Throughout the movie Donnie acts as a liberator for this suburban community in his ability to change people lives through the connections he makes with them. Every person that Donnie is involved with comes to a realization which in turn changes their whole essence. Donnie lives in a world where Sparkle Motion is praised and artistic expression is not. A world where morals are set with no leeway and the state of things stay the same. Through the film Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly is able to challenge this world and help to change the static and emptiness that consumes the inhabitants turning it into a place that has substance and worth.
Richard Kelly’s most important thematic message is the destruction of societal constraints that allows for growth and expression. This destruction of societal constraints can be seen by the radical actions preformed by Donnie throughout the film. Actions like flooding the school and burning down the house of Jim Cunningham serve to highlight Donnie’s destruction of the society that he lives in unveiling the mask that covers the community’s own mundane perceptions. As the movie progresses the world in which Donnie lives in begins to fall apart and the characters around him begin to break down. Jim Cunningham is arrested, Drew Barrymore is fired, Beth Grant goes into hysterics, and Jena Malone’s family relations become more and more stressed. This culminates in an ending that edifies Donnie’s own sacrifice to save the world from its own fake formalities. Donnie’s sacrifice is one not just for Jena Malone but for everyone that has been apart of his world. Frank is a projection of Donnie’s own need for expression and freedom and that is why he is the leading instigator in Donnie’s radical actions toward the community. When Frank states that the world will end in twenty eight days, he is elucidating that the world that Donnie has come to know will change and that both his world and the world of everyone else will be destroyed changing the characters own personalities. Donnie sacrifices himself to save the characters from their own internal destruction allowing for the ability of growth and expression to take root.
The sub-themes of love, religion, and science serve to support Richard Kelly’s own claim in that expression is essential in societal growth. These themes are forms of expression in their own right which according to Donnie’s characterization will help to break the mundane and prosaic process of society and enliven the world with a sense of purpose and value. Donnie’s love for Gretchen is a form of expression unlike that of Frank’s own view of expression. As the world around Donnie begins to crumble the love between Donnie and Gretchen becomes more and more constrained as the need to keep out the pressures from the outside world become harder eventually leading to the death of Gretchen. But is the expression of love more powerful than the expression of radical action? Kelly seems to conclude that love is a stronger aspect of expression by the notion that Donnie would have stayed in this suppressed world as long as he had the inclination of love in his life. This need for love by Donnie eventually forces him to sacrifice himself to save the world that now has become a wastland of false morality. The world is destroyed by Donnie only to be recreated again so that expression can grow and sprout from the constraints of societal rule.The use of religion and scientific phenomenon are also minimal forms of expression and serve to elaborate on the moral decay of the society that Donnie lives in. Grandma Death’s book is an expressive instrument and along with the other forms of art in the movie, the book demonstrates an anomaly in Donnie’s world as a whole because of the fact that society automatically rejects this form of expressive thought instantly. Drew Barrymore is fired because of her own rejection of societal constraints and the fact that her own mannerisms and belief were not in line with that of societal beliefs.
Although there are many more aspects of the film that highlight the need for freedom within a society such as the use of music and tone throughout the film Richard Kelly main focus is the interaction between Donnie Darko and the other characters. Donnie serves as Christ like figure who sacrifices himself for the well being of the world that he himself inhabits hoping to challenge the prosaic lifestyle that the people around him endure. Overall this movie is a piece of art expressed through the eyes of a man who wanted to capture a society in shackles ultimately being freed by the sacrifice of one boy.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Thematic Value: 10/10
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
(Originally written November 10, 2007)
What this film set out to do is astounding. What was attempted was a powerful story of sacrifice. Unfortunately, until the twist of the film becomes clear, this film is difficult to watch. It alternates between film school pretention and a clichéd high school drama before it sets out what it seemingly intended to do.
There is so much power in the story in and of itself, yet there is also too much psychological banter throughout the movie. Donnie Darko is suspended from school because he criticizes his teacher’s dichotomous spectrum of fear vs. love. The problem with these discussions (and there are plenty of them) is that they do not always fit in context. This is a thinking movie, but what should be making us think are the stories of the characters and the use of the film, not blatant dialogue. The blatant discourses set up a dichotomy between Donnie (which we can for all practical purposes consider “love”) and the others full of bullshit (“fear”). The film falls victim to the dichotomous thinking that we’re supposed to support the protagonist in fighting against.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film is its portrayal of the relationships between the different characters. Its vision of high school is simplistic and would have been under attack from the lovers of this film in the context of any other film. There’s the outcast, the love interest, the inspiring yet misunderstood English teacher, and so on. Until the great twist of the story comes about, we have to sit through Donnie falling in love and fighting with his more successful older sister at the dinner table.
Donnie is a Christ-like figure of sacrifice in the film, yet the film is set up to drain the character of his humanity. He becomes a phenomenon rather than someone who is experiencing the spontaneous effects of a tangent universe. Regardless of the clichéd world is he placed in, he becomes more of a plot device than a fully-fleshed character.
The word “Lynchian” has been used to describe the film, but director Richard Kelly does not understand the medium of film as well as genius David Lynch. Lynch starts with film first and will eventually come up with a story. Movies such as Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet are complete experiences in and of themselves. The strength of Kelly’s film is the story, but the cathartic coming together of (some of) the different pieces is not enough to make this a great movie. Movies should be total experiences, and it takes until the last twenty minutes or so of this film for the preceding hour and a half to come together as a cohesive whole. Kelly’s world is so carefully constructed, but he is unable as a director to help the audience through his story.
- Currently 2.0/5 Stars.
I thought his movie was absolutely stupid when I first saw it. So I totally hated it for months.
Then it hit me how genius it is. Not for the time travel shit, that’s still really fucking stupid. It’s the fact that it is so fucking stupid that the movie is genius.
It’s like the coolest 80’s retread ever. It gets the cheesy John Hughes stereotypes and the bizarre ass story lines teen movies had back then (Weird Science anyone?), it gets them so, so deftly.
Kelly is like the 80’s Tarantino or something. Y’know? Like he gets the feel of an era really well with all sorts of cool references.
I’m telling you, this movie is so money after a week of watching 80’s flicks. It’s like Vh1 in a box or something like that. It’s Donnie Darko man.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.