Donnie Darko DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Donnie Darko DVD review
Feb 4, 2003, 02:38

DONNIE DARKO written and directed by Richard Kelly; Fox Home Video, 2001

If you liked movie X, then you'll really love this knockoff.

You see this sort of logic all the time coming out of Hollywood. It seeps into the making and marketing of movies and creates a rigid mind-set: if we haven't seen it before (preferably in some cash cow) it can't be good. Well, Donnie Darko is a film you haven't seen before—or at least, you haven't seen all of this in one film.

The directing debut by Richard Kelly is like a 1980s John Hughes teen flick that has been possessed by alien cheeseballs and psychotic superheroes. In other words, it's a collision of opposites that leaves a heap of messy wreckage, but is worth seeing, nonetheless.

Set in 1988, in an upper-middle-class suburb, it focuses on what seems like the average American family. Unlike most teen or horror flicks, however, this film's portrayal of suburbia is neither giddy nor mocking.

It's just wacko.

Enter Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a brilliant but disturbed teen who suffers from delusions. The latest occupant in his mind is a 6-foot-tall rabbit named Frank who informs him that the world is going to end in 28 days. He also instructs Donnie to commit a series of bizarre acts. What ensues is in effect two worlds—Donnie's and everyone else's—closing in on one another.

Cataclysmic events abound: a turbine from a plane mysteriously crashes into the Darkos' home, the school is flooded, a local new-age preacher is exposed as a child pornographer. And the eye of the storm is in Donnie's head. At one point, his girlfriend Gretchen (Jena Malone) asks, “What kind of name is Donnie Darko? It sounds like some kind of superhero.” She might be right, and it's that possibility that turns what could be a standard horror plot into an intriguing head-scratcher. Is Donnie a sex-obsessed psychotic? A time-traveler? Or a superhero of the mind reduced to flesh and blood, confronting a world he never made?

You never really know.

But, then again, if you want to see a film where everything is spelled out, go see X or Y or Z. Donnie Darko resides in another world.

-John Petkovic

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