Donnie Darko is a 2001 science fiction psychological drama film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Jenna Malone, Katharine Ross, and Patrick Swayze.
The story revolves around the title character, Donnie Darko, (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager who is distant from his family and friends. Donnie is visited by a strange rabbit named Frank, who tells Donnie of the impending Doomsday, which is to come on Halloween. Frank then begins to manipulate Donnie into committing various crimes, after Donnie survives a fatal accident.
Donnie Darko falls into that special category of films that trigger what I like to call, "positive confusion." Viewers will, understandably, feel confused about what happened once the end credits start rolling, but at the same time, they feel intrigued and mystified. The truly curious will feel the need to view the film at least a second time, and also look up what others thought of the film as well.
- The dark and eerie atmosphere of the film. The grim and dark tone is apparent from the opening scene, and always feels present throughout the rest of the film. Even scenes such as kids walking through a school building, or a group of young girls performing a dance routine, give off a vibe of uneasiness and tension. You would think this film was directed by someone who knows how to create dark and eerie atmospheres like Stanley Kubrick or Tim Burton.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal nails the portrayal of Darko's character; unpredictable and looking as if he's lost in his own little world. It's as if Gyllenhaal did extensive studies on teenage psychology and took it to a certain extreme. The characters around him help push his character further in a direction that makes him all the more complex and hard to read. Darko is like a teenager who gets caught up in drugs, pornography, or anything else that would be detrimental to his well-being. We know what he's doing is bad, but we don't wish to see him dead or severely hurt. We want to see if life will get better for him and try to understand what's going on in his head (like his psychotherapist tries to do).
- The presence of Frank, the rabbit. Obviously, the character of Donnie Darko is the main focus of the film, but Frank's appearances to Donnie can sometimes feel spotty and inconsistent. Even when he does show up, he doesn't stick around for very long. Frank is the one who stimulates many of the events that occur throughout the plot involving Donnie, indicating that he's an integral part of the film. Sadly, he doesn't feel as important as he should be.
Overall, Donnie Darko is a smart and thought-provoking film featuring a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and an intriguing plot. It's difficult to pinpoint the film to a specific genre. Is it purely science fiction? A Psychological thriller? A mystery fantasy?
Unless you know you absolutely hated the film, Donnie Darko will sit with you and make you think for some time. It's a film that requires at least a second viewing to fully analyze and understand, as well as clear up some of that, "positive confusion."
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: