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Donnie Darko

May 8, 2015

Donnie Darko (2002)
Director: Richard Kelly
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell

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Synopsis: Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a high school student, plagued by visions of a giant bunny, at odds with many of the authority figures in the school and community around him, and trapped in a time-warp where he has impossibly survived a bizarre aeronautics accident….

Review: It’s become one of the more interesting geek-cinephile parlour games of recent times to see how reviewers do the near impossible – provide lucid, unclichéd analysis of  the highly unusual, ‘impossible to describe’, curio of a movie phenomenon that is Donnie Darko. Many commentators have gone for the “David Lynch-meets-Steven Spielberg” soundbite, though that doesn’t feel entirely appropriate to Richard Kelly’s more emotive, virtuoso, sci-fi aesthetic, and even the ’80s setting and seeming nostalgia fest shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value.

If anything, I view Donnie Darko as something of an outsiders, Messianic fable of a high school teen coming to terms with his own inevitable mortality by reconciling that ill-fatedness through solving the riddle of the time-travel portents which suddenly start presenting themselves to him. Also, particularly after watching Donnie Darko for the umpteenth time, though the film’s genre hybrid machinations, gallows humour and sheer verve are all a joy to behold, it’s ultimately the piece’s surprisingly sincere, compassionate edge which transmits the most. Kelly deserves immense credit for this because he outs that humanity ambitiously and sensuously, letting his feel for technique, sensation and music (namely in two epic continuity shots – one at the beginning to Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”, the other at the end to Gary Jules’ “Mad World”) three-dimensionalise what would seem to initially be a pretty diverse, irredeemable bunch of caricatures. (May 2015)

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