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1239 out of 1456 people found the following review useful:

A thought provoking masterpiece

Author: ready__break from Calgary, Alberta
6 May 2003

Donnie Darko is a type of movie that provides any viewer a type of material that promotes hard thinking and even harder re-thinking. After the film ends, it's almost impossible to keep yourself from thinking of all the possible way to interpret such a film. It's not quite surreal or full of quirky nonsense, it's more like a set of events, which seem to make sense on one level, no sense on another level, and finally perfect sense on another level. The movie acts as an illusion to what's really going on, its almost pleasantly distracting.

Our main character, Donnie Darko, is a boy suffering from sleep walking, and now what appears to be delusions. He manages to avoid a certain death with the aid of a man in a bunny suit. This twisted bunny also informs Donnie that the world will come to an end within the month. This sparked curiosity and dread in Donnie, who also has every other aspect of a teenager's life to worry about. The film proceeds with the feel of a teen flick, the style of a horror, and a plot suited for a fantasy.

The end of the movie is the part which will make you want to watch it again. You'll think you've discovered what's really going on after the first time, prove yourself wrong on the second time, and will sit and watch every possible detail the third time. Richard Kelly has created an instant cult classic, and perhaps something more than that. Extremely well written with believable characters speaking believable dialogue.

I'll be the first to admit, this film is not for everyone. People will either love it, or despise it with all their heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone who has a taste for dark humor and a desire to put the pieces of the puzzle together over and over, long after the film has ended. 10/10

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832 out of 1044 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, terrifying

Author: evilmatt-3 from Woodland Hills, CA
2 December 2001

I think the main theme of this film was summed up somewhere in the middle, where Donnie is speaking to a not-so-helpful self-help guru and says something to the following effect:

"Yes, I am scared and I am confused. But I think you are the f**king antichrist!!!"

In the end, _Donnie Darko_ is a film about people who feel life and all the emotions within it very deeply. Donnie himself is a basically sweet-tempered (often courageous) young man who is pathologically terrified of loneliness and the thought of spiritual isolation. His quest for meaning and self-discovery drives him to the fringes of our reality, which only serves to isolate him more from the world he loves. The few who understand what Donnie is going through go largely unnoticed (such as his girlfriend Gretchen or a tragically overweight yet remarkable sensitive little girl) or unappreciated (such as Karen, the English teacher whose only sin is trying to show her students that there is no such thing as a true end.)

Of course, this movie far from polarizes its characters (indeed, polarization is the last thing this film wants to accomplish) and the majority are just a mishmash of the beautiful and the grotesque: Donnie's parents, who are at the same time loving and perpetually confused; the aforementioned self-helper Jim Cunningham, who is desperate to spread the lie that keeps him sane to everybody else; and Donnie's sister, struggling between her identity as an adult and her identity as a child. And then there's Frank. All I can say here is that nothing can prepare you for or adequately describe Frank.

Probably the best thing about this movie, though, is its incredible emotional range. It manages to inspire hope, love, dread, laughter, and tears at different points throughout the movie without making you feel least bit like there is a contradiction between those states. The scenes with Frank (especially the one that takes place in the therapist's office against the backdrop of a conversation about the end of the world) are quite frankly some of the scariest things I've ever seen in a movie, as they literally made my skin crawl.

Finally, the performances in this film are exquisite. The talent in this film is top notch and even Gyllenhall is just amazing. That said, though, this film has a dismal future. Combine the fact that the large majority of the moviegoing public is just going to find it unbearably weird with the fact that the movie begins with part of an airplane crashing into a building (this has got to be the very definition of bad timing) and it's pretty clear that this film is going to stay underground. However, if you are looking for a beautiful experience with a unique film, _Donnie Darko_ is just about as good as it gets.

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746 out of 1020 people found the following review useful:

You can't watch it only once

Author: Jim-512 from Anchorage, Alaska
2 March 2004

I first saw this on cable tv. Thumbing through the channels I stopped just as Donnie Darko was beginning. I thought the title was weird, and readied my thumb on the remote channel selector...pointed it at the TV...and it stayed there for the rest of the movie! I couldn't stop watching! I've never seen a movie like this. The movie has a beautiful aspect (especially the end). And there are a few chuckles as well. Contrary to the more critical commentary, there is depth and complexity to the story that kind of requires you to see it more than once. I'm no genius, but what I gathered the basis of Donnie Darko to be is about our part in the deliberate DESIGN of our destiny, and I catch more each time I watch it.

Regardless of anything, sincere thought and expression went in to the making of Donnie Darko. Mixed with skill and technical ability = Art.

A WORK OF ART! In the top 100 movies of all time in my opinion.

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617 out of 838 people found the following review useful:


Author: ( from Seattle
27 October 2001

The fact that this is the Directors first film is amazing to me. The scenes dripped with style, yet that style never seemed distracting. None of it was self congratulatory or gluttonous. The visuals were supported by a truly emotional score and its hard to find fault in the 80's pop tunes that found their way into some of the more impressive scenes.

The story is very much thought provoking. Its the type that leaves you pondering the possibilities voiced by the characters. There is nothing condescending about this film. Answers arent simply handed out, rather the viewer is left to draw many conclusions instead. The acting is also top notch. If i hadnt known beforehand that Patrick Swayze was in this film I would have been shocked. His character is amusing and interesting all at the same time. A great cameo for him. Drew Barrymore is forgetable, though that in no way detracts from the film. Of course the star is Jake Gyllenhaal. There is nothing that can be said to properly praise his performance. The rest of the cast chosen fit their roles perfectly. All of these things combine to create a stunning film. One can only hope that filmgoers will give this little gem a shot and support a true wonder. This is the only film I have awarded a 10/10 on the IMDB.

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408 out of 522 people found the following review useful:

Brevity cannot possibly do this justice...

Author: darren_anderson_uk
17 June 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In recent years, Hollywood has specialised in churning out mainstream trash; generic trash not even fit for the cutting room floor. Yet despite these movies' shortcomings, they continue to enjoy success at the box office. Sequel upon sequel, photo fit remake upon photo fit remake, frequently taking the box office by storm whilst simultaneously relegating smaller independent projects to the now relatively unheard-of arthouse cinemas. The tragedy is that the independent filmmakers are often those with the most talent; the most creativity; the most flair. One such filmmaker is director Richard Kelly, who saw the release of his scifi-drama-horror-tragedy-comedy-romance-thriller Donnie Darko last year. After reading a few rave reviews for the movie, I decided to check it out to find out what all the fuss was about.

Donnie is a seventeen year-old boy with major emotional problems. He suffers from a psychological condition not dissimilar to schizophrenia, and lives most of his life in a medication-induced daze. We watch as Donnie meets Frank, a six foot tall rabbit which predicts the end of the world. Returning to his house, Donnie finds a jet engine jutting out from the side of his bedroom. The remainder of the movie follows Donnie's coming to terms with the ghostly presence of Frank in his life, the purpose of his existence, and the fact that the world will end unless he intervenes.

Without giving too much away, I can safely say that Donnie Darko is a mind-blowing experience. And I use the word `experience' in its truest sense. From the opening shots of Donnie's suburban hometown, through to the satirical take on Middle American high schools, the movie is incredibly involving on many levels. In fact, each frame speaks to us on more profound terms than the majority of arthouse films would claim to do. This is, in part, due to the impeccable performances by each and every member of the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, a relative unknown, delivers a subtle yet emotionally charged performance as Donnie himself - the scene in which he tells his psychologist of his various childhood traumas is made both funny and moving by the haunting way in which Jake delivers each line, contrasted with the almost childish qualities of his movements on the couch. Most incredible of all, however, is his terrifying screen presence as he trudges slowly through a deserted corridor or along a dark street, head tilted slightly forward, face fixed in a confused, bewildered expression. Drew Barrymore is also superb as the liberal high school teacher rejected and scorned in a Conservative education system, while Patrick Swayze is excellent in his extended cameo, a smartly observed satire of a self-help guru with a few skeletons in the closet.

Where the movie comes into its own, however, is in its ability to incorporate and deal with a variety of genres. Every movie genre seems to make an appearance, so much so that to categorise the movie as simply a `psychological horror' or a `supernatural thriller' would be an unforgivable insult. Even the movie's portrayal of a high school, whilst unique and original, even bears a slight resemblance to the teen movies of yesteryear, what with school bullies, the new kid in town and an annoying gym teacher. Yet, Kelly never lets his movie sink to the depths of clichéd teen drama. Instead, he paints a startlingly realistic portrait of suburban America, interspersed with flashes of sci-fi surreality. The movie never descends into total Lynchian weirdness, yet nothing ever seems quite real.

Donnie Darko may conjure up images of oversized bunnies and watery projections protruding from people's midriffs, yet on an emotional level it is very much human. Donnie Darko is as much a drama as it is a thriller, and a superb character study at that. We are often led to question whether Donnie's visions and actions are the consequence of a paranoid, twisted, drug-polluted mind, or whether he really is experiencing such things. His gradual disillusionment as he realises that there is no hope and that he may have to go through eternity alone is beautifully portrayed, while the sense of peace and inner fulfilment he ultimately achieves is a truly inspirational message.

Without meaning to sound overtly soppy and without meaning to spoil the ending for anyone unfortunate enough not to have seen the movie, Donnie Darko concludes in one of the most mind bending, emotionally affecting ways possible. On a scientific level it will fuel debates for years to come (I have already read numerous different interpretations of the ending on the internet) but emotionally it transcends the conventions of modern movie making. In fact, it soars. The last few minutes, where Tears For Fears' Mad World is played over shots of various characters breaking into fits of hyper-emotion or contemplating their actions, are tremendously moving, while the lyrics (`I find it kinda funny/I find it kinda sad/the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had') perfectly summarise Donnie's state of mind. Furthermore, the last few lines of the movie, without telling you what they are, are meaningful on so many levels, and mark the end to a film steeped in emotion, surrealism and subtle beauty.

I implore you to watch this movie. It most certainly is not for everyone, and will probably be cast off by a lot of the movie going public as pretentious, artsy nonsense. Donnie Darko only saw a very short, unsuccessful US run and was accompanied with very little hype. Hilarious, heart-rendingly sad, terrifying, profound, intellectually stimulating, emotionally absorbing and thematically relevant, this is by far the best movie of 2002. And for all those wishing to know if there's any American Pie-style crudity, sadly not - although at one point we are treated to a rather interesting discussion regarding the sex lives of smurfs.

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353 out of 479 people found the following review useful:

compelling, eerie, intense, haunting, evocative, potent, sad, heroic

Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
22 April 2005

Being an angst-ridden teenager has never been easy, especially when you can see what's down the road, and it looks a lot like the end of your world.

Writer and Director Richard Kelly is an artist whose films I will anticipate and Jake Gyllenhaal is truly remarkable among a very rich cast. He plays a troubled young man with a brilliant intellect and a vast imagination, struggling with the boredom of standard education, and a society afraid of its own shadow (e.g. contemporary America). An imaginary friend, Frank - a seven foot tall metal-headed skull-faced demon-rabbit saves his life by removing him from the the scene of a catastrophe just before it occurs, only to lead him down an alternative path to an even more terrible oblivion complete with forecasts of doom, psychiatrists, and self-help charlatans.

This film feels as creepy as any well-made ghost story I have ever seen, yet redefines the genre of supernatural storytelling in a very unique and original way.

Donnie Darko is a film about heroism and sacrifice, decorated with disturbing imagery, the horror of everyday life, and a soundtrack reminiscent of Lynch's best. It is also a film worthy of several viewings and at least as many varied interpretations.

I can not honestly recommend this to anybody who attends films for the pure sake of entertainment. Nor can I recommend it to people who need straight answers or have limited attention spans. It's art, and does not need to provide pat explanations for itself. As entertaining as this film may be, it has an unrelenting and merciless dark side, and might disturb even the most veteran indy film carmudgeon.

This is a great film. See it.

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336 out of 470 people found the following review useful:

the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had

Author: lwjoslin ( from Huston, TX, CSA
23 May 2002

"Harvey" meets "The Mothman Prophecies," as a troubled teen starts hallucinating a horrific 6-foot-tall bunny rabbit that brings him dark forebodings about death and disaster in the very near future. A streak of "Heathers" is mixed in as well, with trenchant satirical observations of high-school life in the late '80s (story set in Oct. 1988), involving a priggish teacher, a self-help guru (Patrick Swayze!), and a put-upon fat girl at the fringes of the herd. Finally, a whiff of "Back to the Future," in the form of a local eccentric who just may have discovered the secret of time travel, but a secret that has more to do with spirituality than technology.

A lot goes on here. There's a meditation on the possible overlap between madness and the ability to perceive the divine. There's a demonstration of why, in the Bible, angelic messengers (if that's what "Frank" can be taken to be) are often so terrifying that they have to start by saying "Fear not." There's an enlistment of what martial artists refer to as the "ki" (or personal energy, emanating from a person's midsection) in the type of time travel depicted here (the term "ki" is never used in the flick, but the term "path," another word for Tao or "Way," is). Quantum physics theory about wormholes is tied to the Fortean phenomenon of things falling unexplained from the sky, in a way that's more pivotal, and therefore more interesting, than the gratuitous rain of frogs in "Magnolia."

Time travel paradoxes and ironies enter the picture as well. One character (no spoiler!), whose life is saved by Donnie's ultimate trip back in time, wouldn't have died in the first place if he hadn't dragged her along to the opening of the wormhole. Another character (again, no spoiler!), whose truly terrible secret comes to light in the wake of an arson investigation, must go unexposed as a result of that same time reversal, since the arson now won't happen. Surely that's no oversight on the part of the screenwriter; it must be an acknowledgment of the choices and trade-offs in life, as well as of a confidence that no such terrible secret can remain hidden forever.

Somehow this pastiche works, largely on the strength of good performances. Jake Gyllenhaal is appropriately moody and, also appropriately, not always likeable in the title role. Drew Barrymore, who executive produced, appears as a frustrated first-year teacher. The movie's often dreamlike atmosphere is enhanced by the cinematography, the subdued but effective special effects, and the choice of the music on the soundtrack, which includes '80's pop tunes, of course, and a haunting original song (over the end credits) titled "Mad World."

Not for all tastes, but better, stranger, and more complex than I expected.

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433 out of 732 people found the following review useful:

Great movie

Author: buckwheat88 from United States
9 January 2005

Donnie Darko was a great and thought provoking movie. Most people will probably not understand the movie the first time they watch it, because they don't know what to watch for, but the 2nd time you watch the movie most will consider it a great and profound movie. Another way to understand Donnie Darko is to have someone that has already seen the movie to watch it with you and tell you which parts of the movie to remember towards the end of the movie. This is not a movie to watch if one does not like to think during movies. Donnie Darko is also not a movie for the lazy movie watcher to watch. I normally like the easy brained movies that require no thought-process but this is one thought provoking movie that I give a 10 out of 10.

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327 out of 562 people found the following review useful:

Not as impressive as the original

Author: FilmOtaku ( from Milwaukee, WI
21 September 2004

*This is a review of the Directors Cut*

I've already reviewed the originally released cut of 'Donnie Darko' so I am not going to review the film again. Instead, I'll comment on the differences between the two versions; unfortunately most of the differences took away from the original film, which I think is truly excellent.

I traveled two hours round-trip with several friends to see the Directors Cut since it was not playing in Milwaukee at the time, and while I am glad that I saw it, I feel that the original is the superior version. There were many superfluous scenes in the new cut which did not add to the film; rather I almost felt that they made the pacing falter a bit. For example, the new scene between Donnie's parents in the café – a completely unnecessary scene which did not add anything relevant to the story. There were a handful of scenes like this, as well as some added dialogue that indeed added to the development of some characters, (Drew Barrymore's character, the teacher 'Karen' was enhanced a bit) for some it just seemed silly (One of Donnie's bus stop friends telling Cherita that he 'hopes she gets molested' turned him from just being an incidental character into being an incidental character who is a jackass.)

Another major difference between the two films was the addition of several special effects to the new cut. There were a lot of dream-like sequences (the file cabinets floating among the clouds ala Rene Magritte) and all of the stuff focusing on Donnie's eyeball, computer-ish codes, etc, that just did not work in my opinion. Also, some of the most subtle changes, soundtrack for example, were disarming. The opening song was 'The Killing Moon' by Echo and the Bunnymen in the original, which provided a great backdrop in the introduction to Donnie, his environment and his family. Kelly used 'Never Tear Us Apart' by INXS in his directors cut. Certainly, a good song, but after using a perfect song originally, it is hard to get used to an inferior replacement.

Which is how I sum up my feelings about Kelly's directors cut in general? Why mess with (near) perfection? 'Donnie Darko' is a fantastic film that was so thought-provoking it made some people run the other way. Only those who were interested in something beyond the ordinary stayed to ponder and theorize its meaning, and still are to this day. Kelly's new cut does not enhance the film, rather, it made it plodding and a little dumbed-down – two adjectives I never thought I would ascribe to this film. See the directors cut to play 'spot the new stuff', but stick with the original.


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121 out of 184 people found the following review useful:

My theory of what actually happened in this film.

Author: Hannah Steele from United Kingdom
28 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Donnie Darko. My Theory.

At the beginning of the film, there is a dinner table scene in which Donnie's sister mentions Donnie's medication. This scene lets us know that he is mentally unstable in some way. This is later described as paranoid schizophrenia.

The night the plane crashes into Donnie's house is the 2nd Oct 1988.

That night, Donnie gets out of bed and takes a walk. This is where he meets Frank, the giant bunny rabbit.

This Frank, the one we see in this scene is in fact a ghost of the Frank we later see shot by Donnie. This ghost has come back through time to give Donnie a choice. He shows Donnie the future, right up until the moment he is sitting at the top of the cliff, watching the tornado (or portal).

Everything you see, from the point of Donnie meeting Frank on October 2nd, to the day after halloween (the cliff scene) is in fact a vision that the ghost of Frank is showing him.

At one point in the future (in this vision) Donnie is speaking to his science teacher about 'God's channel' and how you can not change the future events, no matter what you do. Donnie realises on the night of 2nd October, whilst Frank is showing him this vision, that what he is seeing (and what we assumed actually happens during the rest of the movie) is 'God's channel'. The ghost of Frank shows him the plane crashing into his house, which in fact happens roughly 6 hours after Donnie has taken his stroll to meet Frank; Donnie meeting Gretchin, the school flooding, Donnie burning Jim Cunnigham's house down, the halloween party, Gretchin being run over and Donnie killing Frank in revenge. Donnie knows that he has 2 choices. He can go back to bed and prevent all the above from happening (as he knows that there is no way to change what the future holds, as it is a pre-decided event), or he can take the path shown to him by Frank (the ghostly apparition).

Frank is the only character in this film who engages in any type of 'time travel'. What is shown in the movie, from the moment Donnie first meets Frank, to the cliff scene is something that actually happened in reality, however what we are seeing as the viewers is in fact the vision Donnie is seeing that night (2nd October).

Frank has gone back in time to prevent his own death. He knows, that by going back in time (as a ghost) he can let Donnie know what will happen had he gone 'sleep golfing' that night (thus preventing him from being in the house the night of the crash - thus taking the path Frank is showing him).

The scene at the end of the film, where Donnie is lying in bed is a replacement to where he goes 'sleep golfing', like an alternate ending.

The night he dies in the film (at the end), the 2nd October, is in fact the very same night you see him meet Frank(at the beginning) There is no time travel involved to take Donnie back to that night. The film leads us to believe that Donnie in fact followed 'God's channel' and flooded the school, burnt the house down, etc etc.

Let's say that this is what happened before the film we saw started, a kind of prologue.

* Donnie meets Frank (the "person", as the film leads you to believe) *Donnie floods school, burns house down, has a halloween party, Gretchin gets killed and Donnie shoots Frank. *Frank as a ghost goes back in time Lets say that all the above happened in a part of the movie we did not see.(the prologue - not included in the film) This is where we see the film starting: *Frank (the "ghost") lures Donnie to the place they first "meet". He tells Donnie all about the things that have happened(as above). Donnie see's it as the future. These were the scenes we saw as actually happening. Donnie in fact, does not go sleep-golfing that night. He goes back to bed.

The scene we see at the end of the film, with Donnie in bed, laughing and being killed by the plane is in fact, only 6 hours after we first see him meet Frank.

This is what I think actually happened: *Donnie goes sleep walking and meets Frank. Frank shows him the future (the flooding of the school, etc etc) *Donnie prevents this all from happening by going back to bed, thus preventing all the following events.

(The following events being the 'vision that Frank's ghost showed him that night, right up until he's back in bed laughing) The whole movie was set in one day. The dates flashing up on the screen, lead us to believe that the movie was progressing in time.

However, these dates were just a reference point given to Donnie by Frank, on the 2nd October.

If any of this is unclear, please let me know and I will do my best to clarify. Sorry for how long winded this theory is, but it's a pretty hard movie to make sense of.


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