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Donnie Darko
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Donnie Darko More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderfully Made Film with a Flawed Premise

5/10
Author: Joel Rane from Los Angeles, California
27 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I want to say first that I really enjoyed this film...for the first 100 minutes, I thought it was the best I'd seen in years. My problem came with the ending. Although there is more explanation in the director's cut of "Donnie Darko", it does nothing to change the fact that this is three different films, but the ending picks one (science fiction) and renders the other two possibilities (a religious parable or a film about teenage angst) moot. That said, the acting is great, the writing is sharp, the editing is crisp...one of the best movies I've ever seen, and I understand why many younger people feel so passionately about it. I am a few years older than the director (I graduated high school in 1983) so I also appreciate the generational quality of the film.

My problem is, for the first 90 minutes of the film, I thought I was watching a really fantastic film about a young man who might be schizophrenic, with all that entailed for his family and friends. I began to wonder if the religious allegories might be more appropriate. Then, with the ending, it suddenly became nothing more than "Groundhog Day" or "Memento"...a better-than-average Twilight Zone "alternate universe story". I might have suspected this at the very beginning (when the jet engine should have killed Donnie) but thought this was a leading to something grander than the old "you have a month to get your life in order" scenario. I really did like it, but I have to give a strong negative for this cheated feeling I had after. This is what always results from a "deux ex machina", which Donnie actually mumbles at the end, his tormentor's knife at his throat. "What the f**k did you say?" the bully responds, and I groaned to Mr. Kelly, the director, "thanks for telling me NOW." Too bad. My complaints are much more eloquent detailed by Lawrence Person, who reviewed the film for Locus: http://www.locusmag.com/2003/Reviews/Person04_Darko.html

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Could have been really good, but...

4/10
Author: herr_richelieu from Sweden
28 June 2004

...bad acting (especially from the renowned actors like Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze), apparently low budget and poor execution turned it into a mere second rate sfi-fi-'horror' flick. It also tries just a little too hard to deliver its message and so tends to be somewhat over-obvious from time to time. Good concept though. Pity it wasn't managed properly. 4/10.

If you want to see something in just about the same pace but with a better performance (and probably considerably larger budget:) I would suggest 'Solaris'.

Herr Richelieu

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

opinions in the extreme (spoilers within)

7/10
Author: elbobbo from United States
12 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It seems that everyone has an extreme view of this film, its either the greatest movie they ever saw or the worst, the truth is somewhere in between. This is an intelligent movie that makes you think, is darkly funny and doesn't necessarily end happily, to some people these qualities make a movie great to others it makes it bad and to some they dosn't make a movie good or bad. Donnie Darko is a fun movie, it is at times confused and confusing. Donnie is "rescued" from death by someone dressed as a rabbit who tells him the world will end in just over 28 days. From this point on the world is apparently slightly out of kilter but we can't know for sure because we aren't shown enough before he is saved. Life goes on and the man rabbit tells Donnie to do "bad" things, arson, vandalism and the like. HE also sees "strands of time showing him what is about to happen. Everything comes to a head as people die, we learn where the rabbit came from and then Donnie watches as a time worm hole, he may or may not have created, sends him back in time where this time he is not rescued. While I enjoyed Donnie Darko I have two gripes, first we aren't given enough back story to know what is right or wrong in the universe that should be fixed and second it would appear that if Donnie had just died in the first place none of the story would have been necessary. The movie itself creates its own paradox. Definitely a movie worth seeing but not the greatest movie ever made either.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not the usual Hollywood rubbish but not good either

Author: tsw004 from London, England
7 March 2004

I have read many comments on here about how you have to 'think' about this movie and how it's not for anyone who enjoys their plot spoon-fed ala Hollywood blockbusters. But at the same time very few of these 'in the know' people have actually bothered to explain the heck this movie is all about. Which leads me to believe they're sanctimonious English Lit students who are just as confused as the rest of us! But hey that's ok because this movie has depth and meaning, right? Well if there is it's totally lost on me I'm afraid. I did enjoy the way the film poked fun at the hypocrisy of American Christian Conservative culture, particularly Patrick Swayze as the child molesting motivational speaker. Apart from that aspect I found the film rather morose, confusing and unsatisfying. And it's certainly not because I like brain-dead Hollywood blockbusters, on the contrary I usually like thought provoking independent movies but unfortunately this one didn't engage me at all.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Truth

Author: Bolesroor from New York, NY USA
19 September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Donnie Darko" blows. The movie is an audacious, pretentious disaster. It's an embarrassment to everyone involved and an embarrassment to everyone who sees it. Sure, there are still a few people left out there who saw the film as wide-eyed teenagers and still have the naiveté (stupidity?) to call it a good movie but this crowd is maturing with every passing day. And as the good-hearted people wake up one-by-one the little cult that kept the buzz alive grows weaker, and fewer people are subjected to this film. There is a God.

First-time director Richard Kelly gives new meaning to the phrase "biting off more than you can chew" with a movie about teenage isolation, sleep-walking, imaginary friends, self-help, rebellion, death, psychology, martyrdom, love, death, and a pivotal sequence about an elementary school dance troupe which is NOT just another excuse to play one of his favorite songs from the 80's. Oh I almost forgot- Kelly also throws in sub-plots about time-travel and alternate universes just to keep things interesting. But you won't have to do a lot of thinking to grasp these deep concepts- he didn't.

In fact Kelly doesn't seem to over-think anything at all. The movie cruises along until the baffling twist ending that simply negates everything that came before. None of it never happened. Now, we're hip to non-linear films, Dick- most people are these days. We understand stories told out of sequence, parallel narratives, mind-blowing twists... and we like them, when they're done right. But the end of Donnie Darko is what my parents would call a cop-out... just a cheap plot device to avoid making a statement or offering an idea. There's no resolution or explanation for what has come before, not an ounce of effort to provide a cohesive conclusion to what you've been watching. You will be sucked in by Donnie Darko... it's a watchable movie... and you will watch because there are interesting conflicts and because you're sure SOME if not ALL of them will be resolved...

SUCKER!!!

And that's exactly how the cult grew: intelligent moviegoers were so devastated by the film's aborted ending they reasoned there had to be more. (There isn't.) The audience insisted the story must make sense. (It doesn't.) They took to the internet, writing thesis papers and studying theories of alternate universes and time travel and eating up the director's retro-active re-writing of his script to fit the beliefs of his cult's current demographic. You could do all this work, too... or you could save yourself time...

And just flush.

GRADE: F

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not as clever as it pretends to be

6/10
Author: poc-1 from Cork, Ireland
15 September 2003

Jake Gyllenhall stars in this mix of sci-fi, horror and mystery. And he does well, creating the memorable character of a troubled teen. Where the film falls down is the the way the plot mixes in pseudo science and pseudo religion. It is OK to do that if the pace of a movie is fast enough so that the viewer is not bothered but this is not the case here - it is a slow movie with a disappointing climax. If you are going to use this kind psychobabble you should at least make sure your plot holes are covered and again this is not the case. The director follows the standard method of a countdown to give the film some forward motion, a sense of increasing tension. The principle character is informed that the world will end in 28 days. The problem is that after a while, this countdown seems interminably slow - When the screen said there were 12 days to go I was disappointed, I was hoping it was at least within a week of the climax. There were other disappointments, the man in the scary bunny suit was certainly scary-looking but there were no moments of real terror, which is what I was expecting. On the positive side the mood and characterisation was good. It remains flawed but watchable.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

what exactly am i watching here?

Author: Psy-T from Haifa, Israel
1 September 2003

this movie just seems like 4 or 5 trailers attached to each other in an extremely non-coherent way..

main plot: why oh why??? no matter how you look at it (as long as its scientifically), the time travelling/portal are simply unrealistic (not because of the theory, but because of the way and the consequences in which they were portrayed).

subplots: 1: why did we need the focus on drew getting fired? 2: what about the chinese girl? 3: what was the "grandma death" section?

i had a few more, but i forgot them....

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps I was intoxicated at the time, but...

Author: OscarBewildered from Some garret in France, surrounded by strange sounds.
4 April 2003

…I thought this film was dull. I understood it, though it was a challenge, and saw its point, but I couldn't help feel unsatisfied at the end. Perhaps I wasn't meant to; I usually don't feel satisfied at the end of any film. (Save Jean-Pierre Jeunet's `Amelie', everyone liked that)

Richard Kelly is quite young, so we may forgive him for being so skittish with his plot, but not his debauched characterization. Donnie, the protagonist, veers from suicidal freak to happy-go-lucky in a matter of seconds. He's on medication and is crackers, but it's still not forgivable. It is important for us to feel connected with the main character, and here it is possible only for deranged teenagers with a giant rabbit for a friend. These particular persons are a minority.

I quite liked Drew Barrymore's acting in this; but then again I hated Charlie's Angels and am always up for giving people a second chance. (Save Kate Bosworth)

In short, the movie was well acted, well-cast (Particularly Gyllenhaal, whom I will always applaud) and is delightfully dark. However, like other delightfully dark items such as Black Forest Gateau, the thick veins of the movie are choked by a sour chocolate sauce. There are too many subplots. Now I love subplots, don't get me wrong; they are one of the three Messiahs of the film world (the others being Marty Feldman and Hitchcock) but here it is absolutely ridiculous. There is a jet, time travel, Christina Applegate (who is ridiculous enough by herself) a giant rabbit named Frank, the 80's for chrissake, and something about water coming out of people's chests which evaded me completely on the first viewing. The whole thing is like a drunken trip round a disco first time round; you're supposed to take it with a pinch of salt and not really do anything. Don't think about it, and you'll be cynical. Do and you'll be lost.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

You will be disappointed, I promise you.

Author: greenpolyester from London, England
3 January 2003

A friend, whose judgement I normally value, recommended this to me as a 'must see'. Set in 1988, Donnie Darko is the tale of a troubled American High School Student (yes, yet another one). After 40 minutes of this I was still waiting to be grabbed like my friend was. And here's the rub - you won't be grabbed, believe me. The true test for any piece of fiction is that you care about the characters, or, at the very least, care enough to find out what happens to them. Be honest folks, did you really care about what Donnie's problem was? Of course not. He was a bland, unsympathetic cipher. A lot has been said of the performance by the lead, but I've seen Keanu Reeves turn in more heartfelt and engaging performances. The writer/director has obviously stuck by his 'Youth Films 101' coursebook to a T. There is one excrucitating tacked-on scene where Donnie and his mates discuss the deeper significance of 'The Smurfs'. The director clearly liked Tarantino's deconstruction of 'Like A Virgin' in Reservoir Dogs and has attempted a weak copy himself. NO ONE ever had that conversation (and certainly not teenagers in 1988) and to pretend otherwise is just smug revisionism. There is another scene where, to the strains of 'Head Over Heels' by Tears For Fears, the world goes into slow motion. The viewer expects something to happen. Like the rest of the film, nothing does. Drew Barymore and Patrick Swayze play minor parts. Why? Who knows: they certainly brought nothing special to the table. Set in 1988, the 'special' effects mimic the era also. Strange, translucent 'watery' worms emerge from people (think 'The Abyss'). And what does it all mean? Should you last till the end, you will be very, very disappointed. Chronicle of a death foretold - how original. Don't believe what the 'respected' critics have said about Donnie Darko. It says nothing new and does so in an unoriginal manner.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Harvey Skybanger

Author: Andrew Hutchings from Calne, England
14 December 2002

Definitely obscure interesting and offbeat, a cross between 'Harvey', David Lynch material, and a mind-blowing cocktail, 'DD' is worth the effort, but is not quite the ride it's made out to be by other reviewers. It is 7 out of 10; very good, but does lose its way a little, after a good start and before an intriguing, even haunting, conclusion. I must confess I didn't fully understand what it was all about, but the fact that it makes you think about the possibilities of time travel, and the facts of death and schizophrenia, make it thought-provoking enough to stay with you for a long time. The 80s music, although not my favourite era, was perfectly toned for the events taking place, and the finale of 'Mad World'as the film reached its conclusion was one of the most memorable moments in recent cinema. On the plus side, I thought most of the acting was credible. On the minus side, there's Patrick Swayze. Although well-cast, he is sickeningly revolting! A film worth seeing twice, but not in the same league as 'Mulholland Drive' for sheer weirdness...

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