Monday, January 2, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #58: "Donnie Darko" (2001)

Movie Stats:
Released 2001 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Richard Kelly
Stars - Jake Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Jena Malone, and many others

Plot Summary:
Troubled teen Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) has visions and is told by his imaginary friend Frank (Duval) - who also makes him do bad things - that the world will soon end. But is he crazy? Malone co-stars as Donnie’s new girlfriend, Gretchen Ross.

Lots of blue language; violence; gore; very minor drug use; implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
Drew Barrymore, as teacher Karen Pomeroy, is noticeably awful. The only weak link of the cast.

I’m not sure that I completely buy the Darko family’s reactions to Donnie’s behavior. They were a lot less concerned than one might expect.

Good Stuff:
Gyllenhaal is phenomenal. I also greatly enjoyed Patrick Swayze (as motivational speaker Jim Cunningham). The rest of the cast, apart from Barrymore, is good too.

There are a lot of movies that play the “Is this person crazy?” game. Most of them, in my opinion, aren’t very good at it. This one is really good at it. I was unsure of the truth throughout the whole thing. It reminded me a lot of “Take Shelter,” a great film of this genre with a weak conclusion. Fortunately, “Donnie Darko” escaped the weak conclusion trap.

I enjoyed the cinematography. The opening scene in particular is breathtaking.

Great pacing.

The Verdict:
Gosh, this movie isn’t what I was expecting at all. I had a completely wrong idea as to what it’s about. I avoided it for years because of that idea. It’s a good reminder that it’s always best to inform one’s self about things, rather than proceeding based on impressions. If I hadn’t been so resistant to it, I wouldn’t have missed out on this fantastic film for 15 years. That being said, you can probably guess that I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well-written, well-filmed, and well-acted. The added bonus is that the story is interesting. It has this little nugget of a mystery and it does an excellent job of slowly unraveling that mystery. The ending is open to interpretation. I don’t always enjoy that, but I think it fits here. And if you choose to interpret it the way I interpret it, it’s a beautiful story about love and sacrifice. I found it moving.

I give it 4.5 stars.


Patricia said...

I also have shied away from this movie. You make a good point about doing your own research and avoiding things based on impressions. I have the impression this movie will disturb me. But perhaps not?

balyien said...

See, I expected the same thing. I think it's because of the stills I saw of Frank (the demon-like bunny). You see those, you think this movie is really messed up. But it's really not at all. While Frank can certainly be unsettling, I wouldn't say that this movie is disturbing overall, at least not in a "horror movie" sense.