Donnie Darko: Director’s Cut

(Donnie Darko) it’s like some sort of superhero.“-Gretchen

Who says I’m not?“-Donnie Darko

A few years back when Donnie Darko hit video stores after bombing at the box office, I decided to rent it. The cover was cool enough and Patrick Swayze was in it, I thought that was too funny- I had no idea what I had in my hands. I ran home and watched the flick, thinking it would be a piece of crap. When I finished, I sat there unable to descramble the thoughts in my mind- I was brainwashed. I needed to see it again to try and find some sort of emotion behind the film. After the second viewing I was hooked- Donnie Darko had become one of my favorite movies of all time. Now years later, I find out that Newmarket Films is re-releasing the film in theaters with over 20 minutes of new footage- I nearly shat myself! First I hear it’s in Seattle, just to test things out, but the fear that I would never get the chance to see this beauty in theaters saddened me. Well today I got my chance and what an experience it was!

Can an amazing movie get any better? How about a lot better? Can you say perfection?! When the additional opening popped on and the newly mastered score blared I got goose bumps. Director Richard Kelly feeds us more Darko family goodness; we see the family doing their thing around town. It leads up to the dinner scene where Donnie tells his sister Elizabeth to “go suck a fu*k” and we start to realize this is a family, just like any of ours. After a tense filled dinner, Donnie goes to bed, and things go extremely different. We get a close up shot of Donnie’s eye, with the bunny named “Frank” glaring at us from inside. He walks outside and Frank is waiting. He tells Donnie the world will end in 28 days 6 Hours 42 Minutes and 12 Seconds- on Halloween in 1988. While Donnie is away from his room, a jet engine falls through their roof and lands on Donnie’s bed- thank god he was sleep walking! Things get really bizarre from then on, as Frank tells Donnie to do horrible things and Donnie listens. Frank tells Donnie that he’s from the future and then Donnie becomes consumed with the idea of time travel. The movie takes many turns and leaves you with a mountain of questions- only this time, in the Director’s Cut, a lot less questions.

Richard Kelly is one of the greatest writers and directors I’ve ever seen- even though this is his only movie. The way he shot Darko and the way the story unfolds is so smooth. The symbolism and connections between other motifs are everywhere, but jammed in so delicately that you need to see the movie numerous times to catch them. His style of directing is astonishing, the way he films the clouds and the sky, the way he gets Donnie to go from innocent to demonic looking, the way he gets the entire cast to act like a real family. Everything about this movie felt so believable, especially the way the characters interact- maybe it helped that Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) were brother and sister in real life?

One particular scene that I love is early in the film when the students get off a bus and the camera takes us on one continuous shot throughout the school, introducing us to everyone important in the movie. He blasts “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears in the background and the camera sways to the music so harmoniously. Another scene that is fantastic is when ‘Sparklemotion’ is performing at the school; Donnie is out creating mischief of his own. The way Kelly mixed these two scenes together was breathtaking. For a movie filled with such dialogue, Kelly really makes the movie feel action-packed. Is Kelly’s “Director’s Cut” we also see clips from Ms. Sparrows book edited in, to help guide us through the mystery of Darko. The way he drops the opacity so we see the scene through the pages looked really cool.

The other reason Donnie Darko is such an astonishing movie is because the cast is so incredibly strong. Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaa, Patrick Swayze, Daveigh Chase, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Katharine Ross and many many more fantastic actors and actresses round out the cast. They all weaved together like they were part of this real community; their characters were all so believable. Especially in the Darko family, the way the family interacted really made you feel like you knew them, that they were your typical household.

The problem with Donnie Darko is that I could go on and on about the film, until you slap me in the face for sticking up a review as long as our review for 28 Days Later (review). To finalize my point, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is a perfect film in every way shape or form. It’s the type of movie that never gets outdated or boring. It’s something you want to show your friends and even your family. The genres are so mixed that the film is truly for every person. If you miss the chance to see this film on the big screen, you really should be ashamed of yourself- you work hard and deserve such an intellectual treat! If you want to know my theories on the film, continue reading below, otherwise, follow the Frank bunnys advice… “Pay attention, you could miss something…

Read my DVD review here.

Official Score