It’s not very often that I am utterly bemused by a film, but I got to the end of Donnie Darko and said WHAT??!!??!!.
Moving away from the plot for just a minute; the acting, casting, and directing are spot on. I was drawn in from the opening scene, and was completely absorbed throughout. The lead actor (Jake Gyllenhaal) was fabulous – reason enough to give Jarhead a shot if nothing else. H’mm – no pun intended there.
Anyway, the film follows Donnie, who is a kid with mental health problems, and spends most of the film in a medication-induced haze. Enter Frank, a 6ft rabbit (actually a man in a rabbit costume; yet clearly not just a man in a rabbit costume) who saves Donnie’s life by calling him out of his bedroom in the middle of the night just before a jet engine hits it. The rest of the film follows Donnie going on a crime spree at Frank’s command, apparantly inspired by a Grahame Greene short story, while struggling with teen issues like bullies at school, plain odd teachers, and a new girlfriend. Oh yes, and did I mention that Frank has told Donnie the world will end in a little under a month?
No, this gives the wrong impression. The whole film is essentially from Donnie’s point of view, and feels more like Twin Peaks than a teen movie. Heavy supernatural (although not in a particularly spooky way) and metaphysical elements (“The Philosophy of Time Travel”, anyone?) lead to an odd… Well words fail me. I can’t say there were any surprises, but only because I gave up any hope of trying to predict what would happen. Had I attempted it, they all would have been wrong. No, that’s not true – one or two things were obviously going to happen, but the meaning of them is anybody’s guess!
One aspect that did strike me was how well small town America was portrayed – the whole time familiar faces cropped up in the background, and everyone knew everybody else without actually knowing them at all. Did I mention it’s also got Drew Barrymore in?
On balance I’d have to say it’s a film that’s probably worth watching twice (mine’s got to go back to EasyDVD though), and almost certainly worth watching with friends so you can discuss it afterwards. It says something about a film when a discussion between Donnie and his science teacher about the nature of God and predestination is almost sent off to the sidelines!
Just popped across to wikipedia, who have some possible explanations of what the film’s about. I sitll think it’s very odd.