After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.
I will give no spoilers here, as the experience of watching this film for the first time is something I dare not strip away from any readers. For a small plot summary, Donnie Darko is a teen in high school who sleepwalks, and begins to experience ethereal visions from a ghostly rabbit named Frank, who informs him about a dangerous event, which plagues Donnie's life for a month.
Why is this film great?: Jake Gyllenhaal gives a stellar performance as Donnie Darko. The character goes through so many emotional beats, and Gyllenhaal nails each one. The teen angst is played perfectly, and he's truly someone we can all say we've felt like, or seen at some point. His development is realized expertly by Gyllenhaal, and is truly a character who has made a change by the end of the film. It's not heavy handed though, so you might have to go on a symbolism hunt whilst watching the film. Don't worry though, because it's a fun film to find symbolism in. Remember, in this film, the secrets lie within the subtext.
The script and direction from Richard Kelly are simply incredible for a first film effort. While some of Kelly's characters do have loose ends, and some aren't explained well or given enough screen time, the plot is fully realized, and mesmerizing. The twists in this film are confusing, but so ingenius once you understand the film. Kelly crafts a plot that makes sense in the end, and better yet, is not only constructed well, but has several meanings. The film is interpretable in many ways, and it uses ambiguity in the way ambiguity should be used: Sparsely, but effectively.
If you don't get this film upon first viewing like me, don't assume you didn't like it, and forget about it. Watch a couple of analysis videos, and it will not only make sense, but you might be like me, and feel like a big dummy for not noticing it the first time. That's the fun of watching film though! Learning about new things, and experiencing topics and messages in new visual experimentations and arrangements. Don't feel bad if you don't get it. It's meant to be understood over time. It's just that good of a film. It's the kind of film that lingers with you after the credits roll.
In conclusion, Donnie Darko suffers from some early 2000s corniness and has some faults in characters, but the plot and main character are so incredibly solid that it renders those mistakes seemingly unimportant and unnoticeable. You might not get it, but that's okay. Donnie Darko is a purposefully complicated film, and is also a purely emotional film upon first viewing. All that thinking comes after the credits roll. Not too many films these days make you think and feel directly after one another. Give this film a watch. I don't think you'll regret it if you give it a chance. It's a thought provoking film to view while in this time of quarantine!
- May 23, 2020