Donnie Darko (USA; 137min.)


directed by: Richard Kelly
starring: Jake Gyllenhaal; Mary McDonnell; Jena Malone; Drew Barrymore
Donnie Darko
 
Diane says: "Donnie Darko is a schizophrenic adolescent who sees through the falsity of authority figures and classmates, and is hallucinating in a dangerous way. Janet, like reviewer Gerry Peary, saw Donnie as a Jesus figure because he sacrifices himself to save his friend's life, and in doing so, averts disaster in the lives of other people, too.

"As Janet reminded me, self-sacrifice is my favorite theme. But the time travel element necessary to Donnie Darko's sacrifice made the story lose a lot of its impact for me. It was getting close to a HAPPY ACCIDENTS level. After all, wasn't it just the bad things he did in the alternative reality that he had to die to prevent? How can we relate to that? Oh, well, I could get myself tied up in tautological knots.....

"On the plus side, Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic as Donnie Darko--he moves easily between everyday teenager, frightened schizophrenic, and dark, dangerous force. Best Actor nom on the way! Also, the movie surprised me by not falling into the expected directions of teen angst films; for instance, Donnie's mother and psychiatrist ended up being very positive characters. And the way Donnie's premonitions played out was very neat. I really liked the scenes panning each character toward the end of the film. I wish the film had ended with that--the closing scene was unnecessary."
 
Jane says: "I finally watched DONNIE DARKO this week, and all I have to say is......oh....my....God! What an incredible film. I had Donnie tagged as a schizophrenic initially, but the ending threw me for a loop, as I have a problem wanting to take things literally."
 
Kevin says: "I think some interesting and important issues are breached here (as far as doctrine of 'positivity,' the high school environment, general ignorance), and I agree that Gyllenhaal is good...but I think this film is a really huge mess that kind of falls all over itself. The film takes itself deadly seriously, but attempts to be quirky and goofy at the same time...and I just didn't feel like it meshed at all. Didn't like it too much, don't recommend it." 2 cats
 
Les says: "A surprisingly good film with a cast of who-you-get-when-you-can't-get-who-you-really-want-to-get and where-did-they-come-froms that rates a solid YES on the Did I Get Up And Watch The End In The Morning Meter, even though it covered familiar territory. You may have wanted Tobey Maguire but instead you got Jake Gyllenhaal, who displayed a credibility Maguire would besmirch. You may have wanted M. Night Whatshisname, but you got Richard Kelly. Even better. M. Night Whatshisname is basically a fake person anyway. Watch this guy Kelly, he's a slinker. He made the laughable into dread. Anyway, I'm a sucker for time-travel stories with Christ figures in general. (Ever read BEHOLD THE MAN?--About the guy who goes back in time and actually becomes Christ. Wow! Tell that one to the Pope.) Or anything reminiscent of the TWILIGHT ZONE in a good way. Add to that a Giant Bunny Spook and you got me, apparently. This is something that happened to me later in life."
 
Michael says: "I had been looking forward to DONNIE DARKO since I read about it last fall. This off-beat film, part teen comedy, part apocalyptic, time travel tale hit all the right notes. Donnie is a high school student, who may be a delusional, paranoid schizophrenic, or may be actually seeing a dark, world-shattering future. Picture John Hughes merged with David Lynch and you'll start to get an idea.

The story is clever, the direction and cinematography are striking, (first-time writer/director Richard Kelly has a wonderful cinematic sense) and the characters are funny and three-dimensional. The cast is superb. Jake Gyllenhaal is magnetic and sympathetic as Donnie. Mary McDonnell (PASSION FISH) takes the role of Donnie's Mome and lifts it way above the typical teen-comedy parent. Smaller supporting roles are filled with recognizable faces, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore (who also produced) and Noah Wylie, but they stay low-key in their roles, so their star-quality does not distract." 4 1/2 cats
 
Nathaniel R. says: "The day I was having when I saw this was beyond wierd. The film only added to the loosening of my grasp on reality. I enjoyed the film in fits and starts and I think the young director is 'one to watch' but for now I think his ambition outsizes his control of the medium. The best bits, hypnotic as they are feel lifted from other recent better films. I'm thinking of the musical sequences with the camera cascading over the various characters (reminiscent of both MAGNOLIA and Kieslowski's BLUE) or the hilarious small town humor. I laughed my ass off at the line "I'm beginning to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion" but I instantly was distracted thinking back fondly at the small mind/small talent skewering in WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. It's sort of like a mix tape with favorite directors thrown on it. Or maybe that was just me as an audience member who sees everything. No, it's not me...as I don't normally feel this way at the movies. Am I giving the impression I didn't like the film? I did."
 
Nathaniel T. says: "I had the extreme pleasure of renting DONNIE DARKO yesterday. I didn't know quite what to expect from this debut. I knew it was about a teenager in the eighties who has some mental quirks. From the previews I knew that a hallucination in a bunny suit was involved. That was where my knowledge ended.

"I was quite surprised by this gem. The film dabbles in so many topics and yet never feels like it is stretching thin. The themes of the film are actually rather downbeat and philisophical, but the script is wickedly funny and entertaining. There are moments in the film that are visually very disturbing (Frank's appearences are rather off-putting), but they are countered with some back-breakingly funny scenes.

"Jake Gyllenhaal has some major screen presence as Donnie, and he truly carries a very tough part with seeming ease. Drew Barrymore is great as Donnie's troubled, disenfranchised English teacher. Her best moment comes when she runs outside and screams a very familiar four letter word at the top of her lungs. It is priceless. The comely (I know she's only 17, but I can say it, I'm 15) Jena Malone is very charming as Donnie's understanding girlfriend.

"This was an extremely ambitious debut film from director/writer Richard Kelly, but it paid off in spades. Combining the play HARVEY and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST into one movie was not the easiest task, but Kelly seems to have done it with what one might call natural flair. Overall, a rewarding movie going experience with flaws, but ones that I could easily look past."
 
Ned says: "I can't wait to see this again! I was actually surprised at how rich I found it to be after what I had heard of its perceived shortcomings. And I'm sure you'll all be interested to know that it was one of the Brattle's biggest weekends in recent memory."
 
Peg says: "Well I finally saw this at the Brattle this weekend. WOW. Loved it. Neary flawless. I could have done without the last two minutes or so but it did not ruin the film by any means."
 
Scot says: "I enjoyed DONNIE DARKO immensely. Actually, I can count on my left hand the elements I would need to change to make it a 5 cat movie. As others have stated, this film doesn't fall into the trap of substituting angst for insight, and as an anxiety-laden obsessive myself, I appreciate Donnie's dilemma and his search for meaning. (But don't get any ideas that I'm a paranoid schizophrenic who makes friends with imaginary guys in scary bunny suits.)

"I couldn't disagree more with the assertion that the last scene is unnecessary. The whole film is about coming to terms with consciousness and alienation. Nobody in the film can understand anyone else's point of view through the whole film (Dukakis, Graham Greene, swan ballet, the Lifeline) and we're all convinced we die alone. Donnie's sacrifice bridges that gap and if it ended with that act, we'd never realize the end result. It's not just that everyone is now safe, it's that they are together and safe " 5 cats
 
Stephen says: "While the elements that I found weak the first time around (most of the satirical stuff surrounding the hysterical gym teacher and Patrick Swayze's character) were even weaker, overall the film became darker and richer on second viewing, and is pretty much guaranteed a slot on my end of 2002 best movies list - unless we have a much better movie year than we've had in awhile..."