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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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Donnie Darko - 2001

  • Mar 11, 2009
  • by
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 story. Personally, I’m still working on Mulholland Drive so I’m not even going to attempt Donnie Darko’s strange story yet.

It is one of those types of movies that circles around and folds back upon itself, having intricate layers of stories with no resolution. It isn’t a particularly brilliant movie, made on a shoestring budget, by current standards, in record breaking time, 28 days.

Donnie isn’t necessarily an unlikable sort even with his sardonic side. He is under the care of a psychiatrist [is the reason every disclosed?] and on occasion forgets to take his medication. It’s not like half the kids in school today aren’t on some type of medication, so this isn’t any great revelation. He does have a habit, which rhymes with rabbit, to stroll about the neighborhood, almost in a sleepwalking stance. He is guided through these experiences by his personal guide, a rather tall rabbit that gives him ominous warnings about the fate of the world.

On one of his sojourns a jet engine from a 747 falls on his home, more specifically, on his bedroom. Of course, had he been home where he belonged … well, I don’t think I need to explain that scenario. As it turns out, there seems to be no airplane missing an engine, so where the flyin frig did this thing come from?

His family life isn’t bad; parents are personable enough, three siblings are acceptable. He’s got a girlfriend who gets his weird vibes and outlook. In school, despite a few set backs, he is fairly successful. He just has this bothersome rabbit intoning the end of the world. And the movie continues to loop around itself, folding one layer on the other, twining and untwining as we patiently wait for the successful conclusion to the movie.

Donnie Darko was the baby of first time director, and writer, Richard Kelly. It was nominated for 21 awards, winning 11. Do to language, drug use, and violence, it carries an R rating. Kelly turned to a unique group of people to fill the acting roles.

Jake Gyllenhaal took on the absurdly weird role of Donnie. His own countenance is such that it gives a dark, sometimes, broody characteristic to the part. He seems both confident and confused throughout the movie, bordering on adult and child. At times he is almost mesmerizing. To offset him, and offer some sibling rivalry, Maggie Gyllenhaal was given the part of his sister, Elizabeth. No stretch there when they shared scenes as brother and sister.

Jena Malone played Gretchen, Donnie’s girlfriend, while Mary McDonnell took on Rose Darko, the mother. Smaller parts went to Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, and Katharine Ross. Of course, you can forget James Duval, who suffered through the movie in that rabbit suit, as Frank. Perhaps one of the most chilling characters I’ve seen in a good while in a movie, Frank often frightened me by his very calmness.

Features on the DVD include: audio commentary with Richard Kelly, Jake Gyllenhaal; deleted scenes; extended scenes, some with commentary; B-roll outtakes; Cunning Visions Infomercials; cast and crew interviews; production stills; artwork’ They Make Me Do It featurette; website gallery, trailers; Philosophy of Time Travel interactive book; and Cunning Visions gallery.

Overall a strange movie that I would watch again and probably should watch again. It was an intriguing story with many layers. Gyllenhaal was extremely good as Darko and Frank, oh Frank, you are one weird rabbit.



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More Donnie Darko reviews
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 . 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, …
review by . February 04, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
During the first twenty minutes or so, I found DONNIE DARKO to be fairly interesting and even somewhat entertaining. The reptilian rabbit head was just plain bizarre and kind of creepy and enough to keep me interested for awhile. However, things didn't start to make any sense and crucial pieces and elements of the "plot" started disappearing left and right. By the time the film ended I was wondering to myself, "What in the world was that all about." Now after reading a few reviews here, I can see …
review by . October 06, 2003
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 …
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About this movie



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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