Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Noah
Wylie, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Katherine Ross
133 Minutes, Directed by Richard Kelly
Description:Jake Gyllenhaal (October Sky) stars as Donnie, a
borderline-schizophrenic adolescent for whom there is no difference
between the signs and wonders of reality (a plane crash that decimates his
house) and hallucination (a man-sized, reptilian rabbit who talks to him).
Obsessed with the science of time travel and acutely aware of the world
around him, Donnie is isolated by his powers of analysis and the
apocalyptic visions that no one else seems to share.
toast of the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, Donnie
Darko was theatrically released in the U.S. in October 2001, ostensibly to
take advantage of Halloween. Indie distributor, Newmarket Films, originally saw
Donnie Darko as a sophisticated teen horror flick but its complex themes
of time travel, God and morality defied conventional marketing and the film
bombed at the theatres. But a strange thing happened to Donnie Darko. It
launched the career of its charismatic star, Jake Gyllenhaal, and it became a
cult hit on video thanks to strong word-of-mouth, midnight screenings at
repertoire theatres, and Gyllenhaal's sizable Internet following. With its
post-9/11 release, the film became therapy with its intelligent analysis of fate
and misfortune. By 2004, the film had grossed over $14 million in video sales
and rentals – enough for Newmarket and writer/director Richard Kelly to release
a new and expanded version of the film three years later - not on DVD but boldly
back in the theatres.
Boasting 24 extra minutes,
enhanced special effects and sound design as well as re-editing, Donnie Darko:
The Director's Cut is still very much a Gen Y homage to Kubrick, Lynch and
Raimi. But now, with key new scenes of Roberta Sparrow (aka Grandma Death) and
chapter headings to correspond to the fictional textbook in the movie (The
Philosophy of Time Travel), Donnie Darko is organized in such a way that new and
old audiences can get a better idea as to what's happening in this rich tale of
a young man and his personal search for God. I liked the original cut better as
it left more open to interpretation. The pacing of the Director's Cut is slower.
And some of the chapter headings felt like Time Travel for Dummies but it does
give the film a lot more structure and definition.
"24 extra minutes, enhanced special effects and sound design as
well as re-editing . . ."
philosopher's maxim that a watch is proof of a watchmaker takes shape in
Donnie Darko – but here, it's time travel. If time travel exists, then time
must follow a path, and a time traveller would be travelling in God's channel.
Therefore God exists. Heady stuff, but this is what Donnie tries to discover as
he is guided through time by a grotesque six-foot rabbit named Frank.
First time writer/director
Kelly assembled a great cast which includes Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary
McDonnell, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, James Duvall, Patrick Swayze and Katharine
Ross. On one level, Donnie Darko is as darkly humorous as Heathers
or Mean Girls, taking direct aim at cliques, racism, hypocrisy and
teenage angst in high school. But the sci-fi/horror layer of time travel and
paradoxes is what elevates the film into cult legend.
Kelly sets the film in October
1988 during the Bush vs. Dukakis election. For a film about time travel and
fate, its a sly choice because this is the beginning of the Bush dynasty - how
different would America be if Dukakis had won. Jake Gyllenhaal, stars as Donnie,
ambling good-naturedly through the film with wide-eyed wonder and a face that
looks like he has a permanent milk moustache. He channels a combination of a
Joaquin Phoenix/Tobey Maguire acting dexterity along with moments of Nicholson
from The Shining - the new Director's Cut poster features Donnie with an
axe! He is both terrifying and endearing to watch. Donnie is seeing a
psychiatrist (Ross) because his parents think he is disturbed. Real-life sister,
Maggie, plays his sister, a burgeoning feminist rooting for Dukakis.
is indeed having problems. He keeps having hallucinations of an imaginary friend
named Frank who happens to be a six-foot rabbit. Frank tells Donnie to do
certain things, commit various crimes, which trigger other events and
revelations. Frank warns him that the world will end in 21 days and Donnie has
to figure out if Frank is a real entity from the future or if he's going insane.
While strange acts of vandalism happen around town, his psychiatrist begins to
suspect Donnie's involvement as she attempts to unravel his seemingly twisted
mind with the help of hypnotherapy.
Fascinating characters inhabit
Donnie's world. He meets Gretchen (Jena Malone), his new girlfriend who is in
the Witness Protection Program, hiding from a homicidal stepfather. His gym
teacher, Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) is single-mindedly focused on a New Age
self-help program authored by the towns newest local celebrity, Jim Cunningham (Swayze)
who may have ulterior motives playing with the school kids.
a rarity for a first-time writer/director to achieve such a polished film and
Donnie Darko thrives in its richly written characters and unusual plot line.
Kelly clearly loves movies – in the film's most cinematic moment, a time portal
opens up on the big screen of a repertoire theatre during Sam Raimi's The
Evil Dead. There are homages to Spielberg and Lynch throughout the film
making it a movie buff's dream to hunt for those Easter eggs. The eerie
soundtrack by Michael Andrews is highlighted with careful selections of 80s
tunes – in fact, the Donnie Darko soundtrack yielded a huge hit in the
U.K. – Gary Jules sombre cover of Tears for Fear's "Mad World".
If you didn't get the chance to
see Donnie Darko before, the Director's Cut will dazzle and perplex. For
its legions of fans, this new film will be an epiphany. With this incredible
debut, what will Richard Kelly's second film be like?