¨28 days... 6 hours... 42 minutes... 12 seconds. That... is when the world... will end.¨
Donnie Darko is Richard Kelly`s first feature film and considered by many to be by far his best work. This dark and mysterious movie has reached cult status among many film lovers thanks to its original and eerie premise. I on the other hand, just recently watched it and didn’t enjoy the movie all that much. This isn’t my first Kelly film, since I saw The Box a few years back and really hated that movie so I was hoping Donnie Darko would be a lot better. It was better thanks to the performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and the atmosphere set up by Kelly, but it still didn’t work for me and once again I was disappointed with the ending of the film. Richard Kelly also wrote the original screenplay for Donnie Darko and at times the movie seemed to be heading into very interesting territories, but it just never managed to stay that way and ended up drifting everywhere. Many things that happened didn’t make much sense for me, but that is the way science fiction films work, some love it while others hate it and consider the events taking place to be impossible. For a movie dealing with time travel and such I think Back to the Future is the one to be put on the pedestal. Too many elements in Donnie Darko are just pointless in my opinion, but those elements are perhaps why many people consider this film to be a masterpiece. Donnie Darko is a divisive movie which some will love and others hate. You will just have to watch it and make your own judgment.
In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to a young and troubled teen named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up in the middle of nowhere one morning and drives his bike home. Donnie lives with his parents Eddie (Holmes Osborne) and Rose (Mary McDonnell) and two sisters Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Samantha (Daveigh Chase). His family is worried about his behavior and he is sort of the outcast in class as well. He has therapy sessions with Dr. Lillian Thurman (Katharine Ross) and confesses to have an imaginary friend named Frank who is dressed up as a demon faced bunny. Frank has told Donnie that the world will end in 28 days and he also makes him commit a series of vandal acts. Dr. Thurman is afraid that Donnie is suffering from severe psychotic disorder. One morning a jet engine falls from the sky right into Donnie`s room, but Donnie was saved because he had slept walk to a golf course that night following Frank`s instructions. Donnie believes that Frank is some sort of messenger from the future and begins to ask question to his teachers in school about time travel. He also begins to date a new classmate named Gretchen (Jena Malone) who has also gone through a very dark past. As the apocalyptic date approaches, Donnie tries to find a way to change things.
This dark science fiction drama has a lot of missing pieces that the audience is forced to put together by using their imagination (unless you watch the director`s cut which is a lot more explanatory). The film doesn’t seem to follow similar premises from other movies, it is original and sometimes it feels like nothing really is happening that is connected with other events. That is the feeling I got with Donnie Darko, that it was a very disconnected film and hard to encapsulate at times. It`s as if the movie doesn’t know what it really wants to be. The characters aren`t really interesting either, the only true character that is given depth in this film is Donnie Darko and his behavior is really bizarre at times. Gyllenhaal`s performance was great, but that is the only thing I enjoyed about this movie. Kelly has had a difficult time trying to follow up his work from this film since his next two films have failed and not reached the same cult status as this movie did. Donnie Darko could have been a masterpiece if Kelly would have found a way to piece everything together at the end, but it left me with a sour taste.