Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)

Seing a film that has a big aura cult around it always has two inclinations. First, you have the urge to finally watch a film that has so much praise and love. You hear and read so much about that you are already sure to see a nice picture. Cult films, have this blind love about them, the people who defend them will love the film even if its story lacks of structure or if the film has passed the test of time. The second inclination is the fact that all this expectation and good word about a film often disappoint the viewer, like the time I show Pulp Fiction to my girlfriend. I told her so many good things about this film that she was waiting for something that she didn't saw...

Donnie Darko is in my opinion a cult succes for a good but not great film. Half way through the film I didn't knew what to think about it, but at the end when everything unravels and when every pieces of the puzzle fells into its right place I kinda liked what I saw. Even if the ending is a little too heartwhelming in my opinion I think that the bizarre parts of the story get their redemption at the end.

The way I feel about Donnie Darko is like the way I feel about Blue Velvet one of my favortie film of all-time. This is clearly a film about American suburbs and conformism and those are come of the themes aborded in Lynch's film. However, on the metaphorical and symbolism, the 1986 film surpasses by far the one of 2001. By the way, this is not a comparison between the two films because both are very different it's just their atmospheres and settings that feels the same.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a teenager that has mental problems. He has an imaginary friend he calls Frank, that influence him on doing mischiefs. One day there is a new girl (Jena Malone as Gretchen) in town and he quickly falls in love with her. Their love is mutual, it gives him a stability in his life, but he still has his imaginary friend and it conducts him to the eve of Halloween to an event that will change the life of many people of his town forever. The story is told with intertitles that create a countdown until Halloween. But the viewer don't know what will happen on the trick or treat day. Donnie seems to know what will happen and he dares it very much. Weird and unexplained events populate this story and sometimes it just embarass the viewer that will always get a wrong track on the outcome of the plot. Taken scene by scene the story has many levels and touches many genres. The greatest scene of the film is when we have somekind of an unedited camera movement that pass on every important character of the film with only a sad song (I don't remember his name) that fits perfectly well in that scene.

On the acting side, the Gyllenhaals give good but not great performances, Jake is always over the top and his creepy look is always on the edge of being plain funny. Maggie is ok but her part is more supporting than anything else. I was surprised to see Patrick Swayze and a very good and sexy Producer Drew Barrymore (I would have taken more of her in Darko). Funny thing too a young Seth Rogen as one of the bullies...

For Donnie Darko, I had expectations and I think they were satisfied but not in the way thought they would be. I don't know why I thought Donnie Darko was a cheesier film than what I saw. I liked it but I didn't loved it. I think a second view could give me a better perspective of the whole film as an ensemble. I have to give to Richard Kelly the praise that his scenario is rich and that he knew how to distract his viewer from the way he intend to put him through.


  1. I personally love this film. It's even been studied at my film school. I think why I enjoyed more than you though is because I saw it while I was a teenager in suburbia. Things didn't seem so over the top, they seemed relatable. Also, I like knowing that Richard Kelly knew which ending he wanted (dream vs. time travel) that he makes clear the answer in the Director's Cut, though I prefer the original for not spelling it out for the viewer.

  2. I understand that being in the right age to see a film can change the apprecioation you'll get from a film. I watched the Theatrical version of the film and I should watch the director's cut to see the differences between Kelly's two endings... I don't think that's a bad film but I had a juvenile feeling while watching it but not like when I rewatch a film like Almost Famous (a personnal favorite)...


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