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Donnie Darko Director's Cut (front)

Director Richard Kelly's strange science fiction drama about a teenager named Donnie Darko.

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Too incoherent to be genuinely great

  • Oct 6, 2003
  • by
Rating:
-1
As it features Echo & The Bunnymen's single The Killing Moon within its first five minutes, and Joy Division's epochal Love Will Tear Us Apart within its last ten, Donnie Darko is the sort of film I have a natural weakness for. It plays like an 80's version of American Beauty. And while it's nicely ironic, well written and cleverly engineered - too cleverly engineered, really - I think it lets itself down badly in execution. An awful lot of signposts the movie needs to make it understandable are down, unclear, or just flat out missing.

As a result the film is largely incoherent. Many of the positive reviews praise it for a dark post modernism which I really don't think was intended. There's a fine line between post modernism and incoherence, of course.

A case in point: the episode where a jet engine falls out of the sky but which no-one reports as missing. Rather than being a wry satire of corporate responsibility and American victim culture, this is actually intended as plain old daft science fiction: it isn't reported as missing, because it has fallen through a wormhole in the space-time continuum from another universe. You don't discover this until much later in the film. But at least you do find out eventually: there are several aspects which are key to understanding what is going on that you can only discover by watching the director's commentary and having the incidents pointed out:

While I was busy soaking up Will Sergeant's jangling guitars in the chorus of the Killing Moon, Frank appears briefly in the first scene of the film, driving past the camera in a red Mustang, having dropped Donnie's sister off after a date. He is also mentioned briefly as having died thirty years ago driving to Donnie's father's school prom. These are important to the exposition (and understanding whether Frank is real, an apparition, or a figment of Donnie's deranged mind) but without the director's commentary you would (on a first viewing) be none the wiser. Similarly underemphasised is the fact that, as Donnie leaves the house on the night of the jet engine incident, he moves into a parallel universe. There is nothing at all in the script that, as far as I could see, gave any hint of that. Nor of the fact that Donnie's pills are only a placebo. The film toys with the question of whether or not Donnie is schizophrenic, but never answers it.

In general, Donnie Darko asks a lot more questions than it answers, and by the end of the show I was kicking around a further question: "what on earth was that all about?"

Which I don't think is a good thing.

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More Donnie Darko reviews
review by . November 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A bizarre, intriguing MASTERPIECE.
(Read this on my blog: http://nickplusmovies.blogspot.com/2010/11/m...-donnie-darko-2001.html)       "28 days... 6 hours... 42 minutes... 12 seconds. That... is when the world... will end."       Two years ago, I watched the cult classic "Donnie Darko" for the first time. Though I didn't think it was bad, I wasn't exactly blown over by it. I didn't understand it, truth be told. Two years later, having heard enough …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2011
This bloodless production's period costume design, cars, TV newscasts and popular music do nothing to make it seem like anything other than a product of its torpid decade; you can't sell a counterfeit 1988 to a fledgling of that enormous, tacky era. If I want '80s teen angst or surrealism, I'll consult the genuine article and watch some old David Lynch or John Hughes films (separately), all of which have what this film doesn't: character, substance and zeitgeist without all the …
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Finally, the pseudo-spiritual, pseudo time travel stuff falls short because nothing actually ties it together. Which is unfortunate, because if it had, I would have found it to be a near brilliant movie.      In brief, Donnie Darko is a troubled teen who is possibly schizophrenic, possibly a character quite literally out of time. He gets information and commands from a frightening rabbit character who gives him the date of the end of the world--Halloween 1988. The …
Quick Tip by . February 03, 2011
Fascinatingly odd. One of my sons was very keen to watch this and went out and bought after we rented it together. Definitely odd, but so intriguing I couldn't wait to watch it again.
review by . April 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What would you do if you knew the future?.....
Do you ever wonder if the world you are living in is real? Do you wonder if it is nothing more than just a fabrication of your own insane imagination, or if it is happening for real? Donnie Darko  is asking himself those very same questions  as he travels down a mind breaking, insanity inducing  journey that leaves you with a disturbing and  haunting answer  that will shatter everything you  think you know about reality  and also leave you with one  nagging …
review by . December 23, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
At the Movies
-This review was written in conjunction with the standard edition of the DVD, not the 2-disc Director's Cut-       2001 was a year full of outstanding films, but one film stood out from all of the others for its sheer inventiveness, its brilliant vision, and its director's ambition. No, I'm not talking about The Lord of the Rings (although, my previous statement could easily be applied to that film as well). Richard Kelly's feature debut film as a director, Donnie Darko, is a …
review by . November 26, 2008
Donnie Darko
In Donnie Darko, I am vaguely reminded of the question put to the test in The Seventh Sign, where Demi Moore is asked, "Would you die for him?" She doesn't understand the question until the ending. In a way, I compare Donnie's dream, or alternate reality, to this question: "Would you die for love?"   It also brings about another question, "Is it better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all?" Donnie is odd, Donnie is strange; but Donnie is a likeable kid despite his problems. …
review by . March 11, 2009
Pros: liked the story, on the border about Frank     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:     “I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take  When people run in circles its a very very  Mad World, Mad World”  ~Gary Jules     You can beat your head against the wall and try to ‘figure out’ Donnie Darko or you can just take it for what it is, a movie with an intriguing …
review by . February 13, 2009
Pros: Thought-provoking, interesting concept, variety of actors and actresses     Cons: Some people may not get it     The Bottom Line: Donnie Darko made a marko on me.  A man in a bunny suit, an alternative time-line, a variety of quirky characters, and mostly Jake Gyllenhaal make this movie one-of-a-kind.
review by . June 21, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
It is hard to describe the plot of 'Donnie Darko' without making the movie seem repellant. 'Donnie Darko' is purposely ambivalent, and the causality of bizarre events is intriguing from the very start. The journal development is a retro trip in itself. Using footage of the Dukakis and Bush (I) debates before the 1988 election, the movie authenticates its setting of a high school near the end of the eighties. How they manage to mix nostalgia with an eerie tale and dark manifestations is a mystery, …
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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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Director: Richard Kelly
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: June 2, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Richard Kelly
DVD Release Date: 2004
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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