Donnie Darko doesn't get along too well with his family, his teachers, and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank, a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie's escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie's mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure.Written by
When Donnie returns home at the beginning of the movie, Rose is reading Stephen King's It, which prominently features a clown. At the end of the movie, the passenger in Frank's car is dressed in a clown costume. See more »
Elizabeth receives her admission letter to Harvard in October, before Halloween. (The party she and Donnie have is a Halloween party to celebrate her admission.) However, Harvard belongs to the universities that use the universal application and notification dates: applications have to be received by Januay 1 and letters of acceptance (or rejection) are mailed on April 15. To be coherent with Harvard's system, the film would have to take place in April, not October. See more »
After the closing credits, on the director's cut, there is the title of the movie followed by a drawing of Frank. See more »
In the original version, when Donnie first begins to witness the liquid spear coming out of his chest, the spear moves across the room, turns back toward him and forms a large sort-of finger that beckons him to follow. In the Director's cut, the spear does not beckon him. He simply follows. Also the soundtrack in this scene has changed. Previously, we could hear the TV advertising the Middlesex Halloween Carnival. This has been replaced with sound effects now associated with any of the oddities of the tangent universe. In the Director's Cut there is also the audio for a commercial for "Who's the Boss?" starring Tony Danza inserted prior to the Halloween Carnival add. See more »
the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
"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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