It’s 1988, a government election looms over the heads of those in the Darko residence. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), lives with his parents and his siblings. His parents are nice enough. His siblings are a bit too un-extraordinary to connect with. This is ‘Donnie Darko’, and it’s not like any other movie you’ve seen.
Donnie Darko is a sharp, smart and opinionated young man who seems to be continually troubled by his surroundings. His medication attempts to make his troubles more manageable. Perhaps one of Donnie’s stranger traits is his sleepwalking. One of his longer sleepwalks sees him outside at the moment a large chunk of a larger airplane tears through the roof and ceiling, landing right where Donnie would normally be sleeping. Fate? Luck? Whatever. Donnie is unbothered as he’s more perplexed by a conversation he had with a metal faced rabbit called Frank.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Donnie tells his psychotherapist, Dr. Thurman, about Frank who continues to visit him. But Frank’s visits become increasingly troublesome, and soon Donnie is acting under Frank’s influence: he floods the school by damaging a water main. As the movie progresses, Donnie’s life continues to whirl through chaos. There are countless issues at school and other characters start to intervene.
High School Freakout
This isn’t your typical moody teen movie. Unsurprisingly – and living up to its namesake – it’s darker. With brooding vibes and Donnie’s uneasy character, ‘Donnie Darko’ is a teen movie that’s grown up. But it’s not perfect. Self-indulgent and, at times, contrived. But it’s undeniable this cult/drama/horror movie has a strong cast. Between Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle and Patrick Swayze, the movie isn’t lacking in famous faces.
Another area where the movie scores some serious points is its soundtrack. Perfectly crafted to each scene, the music holds the movie as well as the script. The piano-driven cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” featured in the film, as part of the end sequence, which was a hit for composer Michael Andrews and singer Gary Jules, and managed to top the charts in both the United Kingdom and Portugal.
The Critics’ View
‘Donnie Darko’ holds up well with the critics. You can’t fault the movie for bringing an unnerving atmosphere to the screen, along with great acting. Top it off with the unconventional writing and you have a critics favorite.
Donnie Darko does fall down in a few areas – mainly some parts in the script that feel a little too planned (Donnie’s challenge of the Fear and Love line in his school assessment, for example) but on the whole, ‘Donnie Darko’ deserves the majority of the praise it gets. It’s so rare for a movie to take us in completely from the start – and even rare for a viewer to feel as though they are still there when the movie finishes.
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