Donnie Darko

I’ve watched this movie about 7 times now and I’m only just understanding it. People don’t like this movie because its confusing and weird. Others love it because its confusing and weird. You do have to watch it more than once to even get a small grasp on the whole thing but in a good way. You WANT to understand it and figure it all out. Well, I did anyways.

This movie is about poor little Donnie Darko who has ‘emotional problems’ and his BFF Frank, the 6ft tall bunny rabbit. Sounds like Harvey but its no where near as comical and we actually see the bunny though we kind of wish we didn’t!

This review probably won’t make any sense because the film makes little sense so blame the film if you read this and you’re going “er… what?”

  • The first shot is of a boy, laying on the ground in the middle of a road on what looks like the side of a mountain, his bike on one side next to him. We have questions from the word go with this film. Forever asking questions. Why is he on the floor? Why is he in his pajamas? Is he Donnie Darko? How did he get there? Why is he so happy? Has he escaped death? WHAT’S HAPPENING?! That last question is pretty much repeated for the whole movie.
  • It is Donnie Darko. And its Jake Gyllenhaal. Its very yummy Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • The soundtrack is a mixture of 80s classics and scary music, completely perfect for this movie. The scary, instrumental music shows us the underlying tone of a scene that we wouldn’t realise was sinister.
  • This whole movie is about time. Everything is about time. Even the fabulous, amazing editing is about time. Fast motion. Slow motion. Interlacing scenes. Its just fantastic. I actually wrote about the editing for film studies A Level. If you’re interested in what I wrote, continue reading. If not, skip this paragraph and move to the next bullet point:
  • Father and daughter going about their daily routines creates the idea of dull repetitiveness as if real life is something that is dull e.g. gardening and school therefore, time-wise, it is slow. The trampoline scene is used to link back to the idea of time it is used to focus away from Donnie’s life back to realism and normality. Slow motion on the trampoline is repeated throughout the film.

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jake Gyllenhaal’s older sister! I just love this! I love that they’re playing siblings in a movie and I think they should do it again because they’re just awesome. Its hard to create that sibling relationship on screen when you’re not actually siblings. Siblings should work together more! However, I’d hate to do a film with my brother, I know we’d just end up pissing each other off and both storming off in a huff!
  • The dinner scene tells us all about the family; the rebel daughter, the brother makes a joke that his family feels is ‘inappropriate’, the brother’s in therapy and stopped taking his medicine and so on. It takes a lot to back all the ideas of the family’s personalities and relationships.
  • Donnie is incredibly disrespectful to his parents which pisses me off. He’s incredibly ungrateful for what his parents are doing to try and help him. However, he is mental so we let him off.
  • October 2 1988. The film is split up into different days and its shown via titles. On this day, we hear a voice saying ‘wake up. I have been watching you. Come closer. Closer.’ This voice is the voice of Donnie’s new BFF, Frank. And it’s a spooky voice to match his spooky appearance of a bunny costume with a EVIL bunny mask. The voice alone makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and the bunny mask makes you grab the cushion and hide behind it. I must admit, it took me 3 watches of this film to finally be able to open my eyes when Frank came on the screen.
  • Anyways, Frank says the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 12 seconds.
  • I shall now refer back to my Donnie Darko essay from 2 years ago about the brilliant editing on the opening school scene:
  • The focus in the school scene is time, in the present, which plays a major role in the film. Slow motion is used at the beginning of the scene to elevate the impression of surrealism. It is present as a common occurrence around Donnie. There is also fast motion scene in the schoolroom that links to the lyrics of the song; ‘funny how time flies’.

    The motions used represent the motion of time which links to the underlying focus of the film being time. The slow motion represents a slower day it is introduced to us at the start of the scene we associate this with the idea that the start of the school day is the slowest. It then goes faster as the school day progresses. There is also the use of continuous take, which continues with the idea that is ongoing and takes a longer amount of time for the day to happen. There are 3 continuous scenes merged together through light and fading into and from white.

  • DREW BARRYMORE!! She plays a small role that you don’t think is significant but I think she’s a pretty big part of the whole thing. She was also the producer.
  • Grandma Death looks sooo crazy! She’s perfect with the way she walks and her mad hair! Remember, there’s more to her than meets the eye. For those who haven’t seen the movie, keep a look out and try to remember her name. I remember the first couple of times I watched this movie and missed a lot of the hints that made me confused and go “wait, how does he know?”. That’s why you have to watch it so often, you miss stuff because you’re focusing on other stuff.
  • Patrick Swayze [RIP] is in it and he plays an incredibly annoying man and yet I congratulate Swayze on taking this role on. It couldn’t of been easy knowing the ending.
  • OMG ITS SETH ROGAN!!! I still can’t believe I didn’t notice him in this before!! He plays the bully’s right-hand man! Still looks completely the same!
    ‘Wake up Donnie’. He wakes up and we next see him with an axe in his hand with Frank blurred in the background; Frank is always there and is the ‘person’ behind everything Donnie is doing; he’s the one in control.
  • They made me do it.
  • Gretchen: “My mom had to get a restraining order against my stepdad. He has emotional problems.” Donnie: “Oh, I have those too! What kind of emotional problems does your dad have?” “He stabbed my mom four times in the chest.” “Oh.”
  • “Donnie Darko? What the hell kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.” “What makes you think I’m not?”
  • We see just how isolated Donnie is, especially at school as he is the victim of the school bully. And he’s not just any school bully. He’s a bully with a sharp knife and Seth Rogan as a sidekick.
  • We all have had those stupid conversation like “what colour does a Smurf go if you choke it?” and so on. I love the scene where the boys discuss the Smurfs and if they have sex. The other two are just joking around but Donnie can’t take it and has to go all ‘smart’ on them and its awesome: “First of all, Papa Smurf didn’t create Smurfette. Gargamel did. She was sent in as Gargamel’s evil spy with the intention of destroying the Smurf village. But the overwhelming goodness of the Smurf way of life transformed her. And as for the whole gang-bang scenario, it just couldn’t happen. Smurfs are asexual. They don’t even have… reproductive organs under those little, white pants. It’s just so illogical, you know, about being a Smurf. You know, what’s the point of living… if you don’t have a dick?”
  • I wrote a paragraph on the PTA meeting and it intercutting with Donnie trying to stab Frank but I think differently to what I thought when I saw it back then. My new interpretation of it is that its showing us there are two kinds of crazy; Donnie’s ‘obvious’ crazy and Mrs. Farmer’s close-minded, teacher-parent, too strict, psychotic-ness. The two collide in one of the following scenes where Mrs. Farmer has ‘The Life Line’ written on the chalkboard with ‘love’ at one end and ‘fear’ at the other. I completely agree with Donnie on this: “Life isn’t that simple. I mean who cares if Ling Ling returns the wallet and keeps the money? It has nothing to do with either fear or love.” “Fear and love are the deepest of human emotions.” “Okay. But you’re not listening to me. There are other things that need to be taken into account here. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else!”
  • “I’ll tell you what he said! He asked me to forcibly insert the lifeline exercise card into my anus!” Funniest line ever!
  • I hate, hate, HATE that Mrs. Farmer accuses Mrs. Darko of being a bad mother. There is nothing more insulting in the world that calling someone a bad mother when they do everything they can for their child. Mrs. Farmer doesn’t know a bloody thing about Donnie and I just want to smack her for being so bloody close-minded!
  • “Every creature on this earth dies alone.” This is the dreaded line that makes Donnie put his life into the hands of Frank; he doesn’t want to be alone.
  • HE’S A PAEDO!!!!!! AHHHH!!!
  • Hungry, Hungry Hippos! I remember them!

  • Gah! I want to talk about the ending but I can’t! To be honest, everything I’ve said so far is mainly opinion. I don’t think anyone really knows what its about except the director [who also wrote it]. Its all about time travel, just think of it like that. Or is it? !!!!
  • Oooops. Wrote a bit much, didn’t I. Sorry! There is just so much to write about about this movie! Its one of my favourite to analyze and discuss because everyone has different views on it and different theories. Its still leaving me with questions, even after over 7 views.

    If you’ve ever considered watching this movie, please please PLEASE watch it, its fantastic.




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    One CommentLeave a comment

    1. An unnerving, electrifying debut film from 26-year-old writer/director Kelly, one that elucidates the universal traumas of growing up, but does so with a startling uncommonness. Near-perfect film for me. Good review, please check out mine when you can!

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