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Donnie Darko (2001)

  Directed by: Richard Kelly
Written by: Richard Kelly
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze
Links: Donnie Darko on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.20 (5 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked 52nd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Just tell a story!" - a review by mino

This might not be the most popular opinion in the world, but I'm going to come right out and say it: Donnie Darko isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is. It's good, sure: but it's not that good.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a very disturbed young man — a young man who ranks pretty high up on the disturbed-o-meter, in fact. He hears voices, he sees things, and has conversations with a rather freaky giant bunny rabbit named Frank, who encourages Donnie to do some things that Donnie really ought not be doing. The movie is kind of meandering, but suffice it to say, some weird stuff happens, and as is so often the case, we're left wondering whether Donnie is really the weird one, or if it's everyone else — or, indeed, the world in general — that's strange.

While Gyllenhaal is an amazing actor (though not as amazing as his real-life and movie sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, who can do wonders with a small role — and, uh, rrowr), and the character of Donnie is a truly fascinating one, I just found something wrong with Donnie Darko — while it's a good movie, it's just — I dunno, a little too try-hard. It's like some ultra-pomo ‘oh, look at this, we can put in time travel and philosophy and existential questions’, kind of ignoring the fact that the time travel is rather clumsy, the philosophy rather amateur, and the existential questions largely banal.

Don't get me wrong — the movie is indeed good — but it's a good movie about a boy's struggles with mental illness, and all the superfluous fol-de-rol detracts from it, rather than makes it any more meaningful. Maybe some Smiths-listenin' sixteen-year-old girls might think that ohmigod it's like they're speaking directly into my heart, but frankly I found it all rather tiresome.

Some great dialogue (Donnie in particular has some memorable lines), and some wonderful performances make Donnie Darko a very absorbing film: I just wish writer/director Richard Kelly wasn't so obsessed with being a cleverdick.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 11 Mar 2004

"What was that all about?" - a review by freddy

I would really like to write a review of Donnie Darko. However, I don't know what the hell goes on in Donnie Darko. It's not that I was nodding off as I laid back in the beanbag and pressed play or anything, it's just that this film has a whole lot of weird stuff going on.

What's surprising, for such an ‘original’ film, is that it co-stars Patrick Swayze and Drew Barrymore. I wonder what Patrick thought when his agent sent him this script. I reckon he probably said, ‘Jim, you're fired’. I'm only guessing though — his agent might not be called Jim. He probably has some hotshot Hollywood agent name like Haley.

Anyway, Jim, or Haley, now has one less client. But back to Patrick and the script.

I actually don't think Patrick ever read this script, because it would probably give him an aneurism. So on second thoughts, I'll bet his agent just said that there was a movie for him, in which he'd play a guy with upright hair living in a big house who was adored by a woman. How could Patrick say no to that?

What the agent wouldn't have mentioned was that the woman adoring him is a pitiful, God-obsessed nutburger and his character has some pretty smelly skeletons in his closet. But hey, here's Patrick, he's in the film, and he actually does a pretty good job of an over-confident anti-fear preacher in middle America in October 1988.

Well, I was hoping that if I talked about Patrick Swayze for a while, I could get away with not actually writing about the film for the aforementioned reasons. Looks like I'm a bit short still, so here goes.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the name of the main character, a teenage boy with some serious psychological problems. Foremost among these are his visions of an evil giant rabbit (I'm serious — you have to see this bunny) that sends Donnie on naughty missions like flooding his school. And then it just gets weirder.

There's talk of time travel, a mysterious old woman called Grandma Death, some teenage sexual frustration (if only Stifler had turned up at Donnie's Halloween party for some cheap laughs) and who knows what else.

I can't say much more other than: this is a very interesting, brilliant film, well worth seeing. And, in my case, if you hadn't noticed, it requires a second viewing.

Maybe then I'd be able to write a decent review.

freddy gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 23 Feb 2004

"Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!" - a review by andy-j

Donnie Darko is not your typical 16 year old high school student. He's on anti-depressants, seeing a psychiatrist, and he has an imaginary friend called Frank who, one night, tells him the world is going to end in twenty-eight days (and a bunch of minutes and seconds). So what is Donnie going to do with his last twenty-eight days? Frank has a few crime-spree-like suggestions, and Donnie always obeys him, regardless of the consequences. Despite the fact that he is somewhat of a nutter, Donnie still seems to be a relaxed and cruisey sort of guy who does his own thing. He takes the whole world-ending saga quite well actually, all things considered - he finds himself a girlfriend, belittles a few people he doesn't like, and even finds time to fit in a late screening of The Evil Dead (1982) at the movies. As the twenty-eighth day draws to a close, some startling revelations come out, and it's not at all peaches and cream for Mr Darko.

What makes Donnie Darko such a fantastic movie? Firstly, Donnie himself, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is SUCH a cool character. Despite the fact that he may be a bit mentally unstable, he is totally his own person, unafraid of anyone, funny, and really cool. Jake Gyllenhaal is clearly the standout performer in this film. Secondly, the story is just awesome. You really have no idea what is going on until the absolutely amazing ending, and even then, you sit there in shock and really have to have a good think and even form your own little theory about how everything ties together. Then you have to go back and watch it again and again, and every time you watch it, you pick up another little bit. It is a wonderous, mythical story, one that totally enveloped me.

Thirdly, the cast that make up this movie is nothing short of stellar. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake's real-life sister, plays Donnie's sister Elizabeth, and the brother-sister relationship they share onscreen is as real as it gets. Patrick Swayze plays Jim Cunningham, the local motivational speaker. Forget Ghost (1990)! This is Swayze as you've never seen him before... hilarious! Beth Grant plays the serious, uptight and unintentionally-funny Kitty Farmer, a teacher at Donnie's high school with strictly-upheld morals. Donnie goes to town on her. All the cast are wonderful, even Tom Tangen, who plays the Man in the Red Jogging Suit.

Donnie Darko has a helluva lot of style. It's totally original, engrossing, rewatchable, non-mainstream, intriguing, funny, set in the 80s and just sooo entertaining that I'm gonna go and watch it again now. I strongly suggest you join me.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 23 Jan 2004

"Oh Donnie, you so crazy" - a review by pearly

Hmmm, what can I say about this movie? It's kinda like a cross between Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Sliding Doors (1998) (I never thought I'd be able to say that). It's about Donnie, a high school kid who goes through a series of weird events leading up to Halloween, including a plane engine falling on his bedroom, becoming friends with a guy in a weird rabbit suit, flooding his school, and more.

Beyond that, it's difficult to describe. All I can really do is provide a bunch more comparisons to other movies, which will hopefully give you an understanding of what this one's all about, so that's what I'll do.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie. He's great. Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, is pretty awful. I don't know what it is about her, but her acting just doesn't cut it, and I assume she's only still able to make movies because she started out so young. Thankfully, her role isn't that big.

The one to watch though, is Patrick Swayze, who pops up out of nowhere to star in a role very similar to the one that Tom Cruise had in Magnolia (1999) (similar because of how it is played, more than anything). A much, much better portrayal of a motivational-speaker-type character than WillFull (2001) was.

There's also some great bits in the script, like a conversation the guys have about the smurfs, which is reminiscent of the Stand by Me (1986) discussion about Goofy. And, because the movie is set in 1988, there are lots of pop culture references, for example, Donnie and Gretchen (Jena Malone) go to the cinema to see The Evil Dead (1982).

Somehow, I don't think this review is doing Donnie Darko the justice it deserves. The film is really well put together, and it's the type of film where some things are left hanging so that you can think about them for yourself and make your own conclusions. While the credits were running, the guys in the seats next to me at the cinema were already talking about their interpretations; arguing amongst themselves.

As a matter of fact, the official site is a companion to the movie unlike any that I've seen before, as it actually offers more information than the movie did, to keep you thinking after seeing the movie. A very interesting concept - pity that the site is so annoyingly flash-driven, with the non-user-friendly navigation and whatnot.

Anyway, put simply, see this movie.

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 1 Nov 2002

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 4
Number of ratings: 5
Average rating: 8.20
Lowest rating: 7 (by mino, freddy)
Highest rating: 10 (by andy-j)
 
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Reader comments

  1. excellent

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from sarah on Mon 22 Sep 2003 22:07 #

  2. great movie... end of story

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Joe on Tue 06 Jan 2004 21:23 #

  3. AMAZING MOVIE!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from jim on Mon 26 Jan 2004 13:22 #

  4. I have Donnie Darko on DvD and it's such a cool film that has a part in it for everyone. You can watch it as many times as you like and it would still puzzle you. Donnie's character in the film is mentally unstable mixed in with intelligence, which is why it's so strangely funny when he and his friends are talking about the smurfs...An never-dies classic.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Yazmeen on Mon 09 Feb 2004 02:48 #

  5. THis is a really screwed up movie scary and screwey DONT seeunless you are ready to see weird stuff!

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from Crazy on Fri 18 Jun 2004 03:18 #

  6. mino doesnt know what he's talking about. Maybe he should watch it properly. I see you in your Ivory Tower!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Mr Blobby on Wed 27 Apr 2005 22:50 #

  7. i think donnie darko is a awsome movie,ive watched it twice i think theres alot more comments in the movie than these reviews explore i mean everyone here is saying about the plot and how disturbed he is.. what about allusions to Christ(look out for them there everywhere) and the suttle comments about the entity that is God.It clearly outlines existentialist beliefs (aethistic comments)it in a way is satiric of Christians too..whats her name..the PE teacher..so sure of herself in public, she is almost willifully ignorant through her Christianity..eg with the kiddie porn guy. And at the end she sits on her bed crying, which i found sort of..i dont no, i think her preying as she cried more symbolic. Oh then theres the whole loop in time, the whole curved sace time philosophy for me was sort of out of place but its works..i think although ive got heaps more.. that the main questions are the cliche's- the chicken or egg came first(the jet engine that fell in his room at the end is revealed comes from the plane his mother was on, and i asume she dies on but when he decides to die (bcause hes learnt and acepted that "every creature on earth dies alone" and is in someways now not alone) the jet engine is still in the loop.. and the other cliche is 'what if' (obviously) feel free to comment on my comment id like to see if people agree

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from steph on Fri 14 Oct 2005 14:47 #

  8. oh.. the smurfs while im here.. still. you no how he says 'whats the point in living if u dont have a penis' while in some ways a bit.. stupid. i saw that as also a comment on the human condition.. i mean all we are essentially here for is to reproduce.. which in turn goes onto the whole sex facination stuff.. which i no is also due to his age..

    A comment from steph again on Fri 14 Oct 2005 14:52 #

  9. Choices: that guy says if you could see your destiny then it would no longer be destiny beacause you would have a choice.. well donnie has the ultimate choice. the movie questions how much choice, as the most conscious (and consciously conscious) animals, humans have.. right?? oh and mino.. time travel is clumsy when its unexplained like "time travel machines" the time travel in this is science, physics... its mathematical and is the backbone to how the movie is cyclical.. curved time,continuum and worm holes..

    A comment from same steph on Fri 14 Oct 2005 15:02 #

  10. This movie is a thinker. It can be viewed as a psych. thriller or a sci fi. Definately one of the best in a long time. Just be careful to not hurt yourself trying to figure it out

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from psych student on Mon 31 Oct 2005 22:15 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.63 (8 ratings)

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