***Cult flick with sophisticated themes, great cast, but meh story*** Released in 2001 and written/directed by Richard Kelly, "Donnie Darko" is a drama/fantasy starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled California teen dogged by apparitions of a man in an evil rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit several crimes, after he narrowly escapes a peculiar accident concerning a jet engine falling from the sky. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays his sister, Holmes Osborne & Mary McDonnell his parents, Drew Barrymore his teacher, Katharine Ross his therapist, Jena Malone his girlfriend, Noah Wyle his science teacher and Patrick Swayze a self-help guru. Patience Cleveland is on hand as Grandma Death. While the movie flopped at the box office, it has since become a serious cult hit. I saw it recently for the first time and went into it cold without knowing anything about the intricacies behind the plot. The only thing I knew was that the kid was harassed by an ee-vil bunny apparition. The film mildly works as a high school drama with a satirical smirk. But the story's just not engaging enough on that level. While the movie has some quality women, it fails to capitalize on their presence (Barrymore, for instance, is barely in it). But Jake is a solid protagonist, even somewhat sympathetic despite the curious things he does. By the middle of the second act I found myself getting bored with the story and trying to figure out what was going on, but the film perks up in the last act, particularly when it reveals the truth about the scary bunny guy. After viewing, my overall impression was that the story never really took off and was burdened by perplexing ambiguities even while possessing some fascinating elements. I came up with a theory to explain the events (explained below) but, upon reflection, I realized that all the pieces didn't fit. And the movie simply wasn't entertaining enough to bang my head further trying to figure it out. I would've given the movie a mediocre 5/10 rating, but after investigating the official meaning and the alternative explanations I had to admit that the film is genius in this respect. It just needed to be attached to a more interesting story with more stimulating characters. The film runs 113 minutes, which is the version I saw; the Director's Cut runs 20 minutes longer. It was shot in Los Angeles and surrounding areas (Angeles National Forest, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Santa Clarita, Burbank & Calabasas). GRADE: B- ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY (***SPOILER ALERT*** Don't read unless you've seen the movie): My casual interpretation turned out to be one of the alternative explanations of the movie, the so-called "Donnie Is Shown the Future" explanation, which suggests that Donne is shown the future via the future ghost of Frank and so he sacrifices himself at the end to save everyone. But, as noted above, there are too many holes in this interpretation. A couple of other popular explanations are the banal Schizophrenia Theory, where the film shows the protagonist going through an episode of his illness, and the Dream Theory, where it was "all just a dream," which is too clichéd and idiotic to even consider. The 'official' interpretation I would've never pieced together because it's just too sci-fi-oriented and complex: It's the Tangent Universe Theory, which suggests that time in the Primary Universe (i.e. reality) is occasionally corrupted and an unstable alternative universe is created, but it will only last a few weeks. Nevertheless, it threatens to destroy the universe. The events you see happening in the bulk of the film are this alternative reality where the universe (or God) is correcting the error to get back to the Primary Universe using an Artifact (the jet engine), The Living Receiver (Jake Gyllenhaal), a Manipulated Dead person (the bunny guy), and so on. Google it and you'll see that the Tangent Universe explanation ties up all the loose ends.
Author: Andres Gomez
Interesting movie with several readings. As with 2001: A Space Odissey, it is needed a reading of the actual explanation for the events to fully understand the original idea ... if you are interested in such explanation ...
Adam Fields Productions
20th Century Fox
1 hr 54 mins
$ 6,000,000.00 (Estimated)
$ 1,270,522.00 (USA)
($ 4,729,478.00) (Estimated in USA)