a critiQal film review Donnie Darko (2001)

Plot: October, 1988: Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) is having a bit of a problem. He walks in his sleep, and keeps seeing a six-foot tall evil-looking bunny rabbit named Frank (Duval). His parents have sent him to a shrink (Ross) to help him with his problems, but so far it’s not working. Luckily, he's out sleepwalking when an engine falls out of a plane and lands in his bedroom. As October wears on, he tries to discover what Frank is trying to tell him...even though he almost doesn't want to know.

516 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 34s)
  • ...newcomer Gyllenhaal helps Director Richard Kelly create a vision that shouldn't be missed.

I’d heard a few positive things about Donnie Darko, so on a whim, decided to check it out. I watched the trailer, since I wasn’t really sure what it was about, and was immediately intrigued. It looked to me like a horror flick, and I was hoping it wouldn’t degenerate into cheese, a la Jason X (2002) or something similar.

It ended up to be more of a dark comedy with a horror edge to it…and boy am I glad I rented it.

The actors all did a great job portraying their characters. Jake Gyllenhaal, especially, brought a huge depth to the title character, creating a convincing portrayal of a young man haunted by specters, yet trying to live a normal life.

It was also nice to see the somewhat unknown actor put to the forefront in Donnie Darko, while the familiar faces of Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, and Patrick Swayze were all pushed to the background. Without a good performance in the title role, the whole film would have fallen apart, and Drew, Noah and Patrick would have had to add a black mark to their careers. Lucky for them, and the viewer, Jake was able to meet the needs, and did an excellent job.

On a side note, it was also nice to see his real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal cast as his sister in the film. It brought an extra depth to their relationship that probably wouldn’t have been seen otherwise.

The plot was intriguing, to say the least. From the get go, you’re hooked into the storyline, and it doesn’t let up until the end.

The decision to throw some great comedy into Donnie Darko was an excellent choice. Plus, it will leave some scenes forever etched into your mind. After hearing Donnie call a pompous self-help guru the Anti-Christ, you have to laugh. Add to that the self-help guru is played by Patrick Swayze of all people, and I’m sorry, it just doesn’t get much funnier than that. And that’s just one scene.

They also throw in an immediately annoying teacher who becomes obsessed with her daughter’s SparkleMotion dance group. It’s here that the filmmakers show that they can do cheesy, and laugh right along with you. SparkleMotion is a spitting image of cheesy 80’s “Star Search” (TV) wannabes, and they play it to the hilt.

The special effects are all very well done. There are no flaws that stand out. It’s surprising, since there are a number of special effects. Usually a movie with a large amount of special effects will falter at least once, but not this one. Good job, guys.

With it’s great plot, wildly comic sense and it’s great performances, plus a few classic 80’s tunes throw in for good measure, Donnie Darko is a must-see. This one’s got definite replay value as well, so you’d be better off just buying it out right. I’m certainly going to. Don’t miss this one.

Heck, I’ve already watched it twice.

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