Monday, 7 May 2012

Donnie Darko

I watched Donnie Darko with my friend when she stayed over this weekend and suffice to say we really didn't get a lot of sleep afterwards. I've seen it before but to be honest even that didn't make it any less scary/hard to understand what on earth was happening. For some reason the DVD I have of Donnie Darko is the directors cut version which actually explained it much more by including text and some extended or extra scenes. Before the film started there were about five or so trailers for Jake Gyllenhaal films so soon I am going to have to have a Jake movie/blog marathon. Yay. He looks so young as Donnie though despite being 19 and is so convincing as an awkward teenager. I see 19 as being pretty adult and I had thought he was maybe 17 at most. The film came out in 2001 and was directed by Richard Kelly who was only 26 at the time, which isn't intimidating at all. It was produced by Drew Barrymore's production company, Flower Films. She also appears in it as the English teacher Ms. Pomeroy who is fired for being too "progressive." It's a great subplot and I think my school would be a lot more interesting if they introduced the "sit next to the boy you think is cutest" system.
I'm not going to attempt to explain what the film is about, as that's a pretty impossible task but I'll include a quote and a link to a website that does a great job of explaining the film (or an interpretation of it.)                                                                                                                            
"In a nutshell, this is precisely what the hell happens in “Donnie Darko.” At midnight on Oct. 2, 1988, a Tangent Universe is spontaneously created, centered in Middlesex, Va. This Tangent Universe threatens the existence of life as we know it; it falls to one person to do whatever necessary to put the world back in order and keep the Tangent Universe from destroying the real world when it collapses in 28 days. That person — that superhero — is, of course, Donnie Darko: a 16-year-old with emotional problems, a history of arson, and bedroom eyes."
Anyway, one explanation of the film is as a sci-fi horror flick but there is far more to it than that. I see Donnie Darko as an exploration of the effects of mental illness on a family, as well as being a film with a lot to say about the emotions and frustrations of growing up, in a place where you're smarter than the adults around you. I'm not putting myself in that category at all, but honestly who hasn't had wanted to tell a teacher to shove something up their ass at one time or another? I think Jake Gyllenhaal was the perfect actor for this role, as was Jena Malone, as Gretchen Ross his equally troubled girlfriend. Maggie Gyllenhaal played Donnie's sister Elizabeth and their sibling relationship was so natural on screen not just with each other but also with the little sister Sam. There was bit where they both said "Shut up Sam!" in exactly the same tone of voice and moments like this makes the whole film feel so real and honest.I don't even know where to start with the giant rabbit/time travel stuff that happens but even thought the director says that is the main idea behind the film I think you should be allowed to interpret it any way you want. I think it makes a comment on the uselessness of counseling or therapy, whatever you want to call it and how mental health treatment only makes things worse. Whatever happened to Donnie before the events of the film begin, pills and hypnotherapy clearly aren't doing him much good.  I also love the school scenes and Donnie's obvious boredom, and frustration at his friends lack of knowledge about Smurf sexuality. Another brilliant point the film makes is the repressive and stupid education the kids of Middlesex, Virginia are getting. The PSE teacher may have been a stereotype but the scene where they ban a book from the English class is still chilling. And I love how important books are to the plot; the Watership Down discussions suggesting a lot about the meanings behind Donnie's disturbing visions.

Donnie Darko got poor box office ratings, not even breaking even, but good critical reception and cult status. I think it's an amazing film and no matter how many times you watch it you will be able to find something new to think about. And you get to look at Jake Gyllenhaal being all angsty and troubled. Finally the music is great as well. It's not obvious while you watch it but it provides the perfect mysterious backdrop to the intriguing events taking place on screen.

The boy reads, he shoots, he talks to
giant rabbits, what's not to love?

Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear you thoughts on Donnie Darko!
Thanks for reading,
Jessica x


  1. Ah, it has been too long since I last watched it. I remember being shaken up by it- partly because I couldn't understand it, and also because it was a little eerie!
    I think I may just have to get a copy of it now ;)

  2. Thanks so much for your comment Mariana, I'd love to know what you think if you watch it again. And eerie is definately the perfect word for it.
    Jessica :)


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