Donnie Darko Hugo-Burns'S REVIEW
Favourite film of all time
BY Hugo-Burns superstar
Donnie Darko while hard to grasp on the first viewing (unless you view the directors cut but we'll get to that later) is extremely entertaining and this is where one of the films strengths comes into play. Anyone can enjoy Donnie Darko, it has elements of almost every genre. Romance, sci-fi, horror, comedy, mystery, drama, you name it it's probably in there.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a troubled teenager (Donnie Darko) who is plagued by visions of 'Frank' who is a creepy figure dressed up in a disturbing bunny costume and who ultimately leads him to commit acts that seem random and unrelated, but is later 'explained' through visuals and a bit of your own interpretation. Gyllenhaal's performance is one of the best of his career expecially considering his age at the time, he is weirdly likeable, funny and I think almost perfectly portrays a teenager. Gyllenhaal is also accompanied by Gretchen Ross who is played by Jena Malone and the two together have engrossing chemistry that is enthralling to watch, the characters compliment each other well and after a short amount of time, you seamlessly transition to not watching actors, but characters. The supporting cast is also great with Drew Barrymore playing an english teacher and even Patrick Swayze makes an appearance.
Donnie Darko thrives, however, in it's story and visuals. The first time you watch it you can't really explain what you just watched, but you know you kind of like it. It gives very little to the audience and I believe leaves the film to you to interpret for yourself even though there are a million 'DONNIE DARKO EXPLAINED' videos on youtube, I don't think there is a firm way to take away this film. I'm not going to tell you anything that actually happens in the film as it is better if you watch it going in with as minimal information as possible but knowing the general idea as to not become overwhelmed but is 'weirdness' (atleast for mainstream).
Donnie Darko as mentioned above has wonderful visual appeal and also a smart music choice in terms of soundtrack and also score. There are many scenes that are filmed in a way that you can't see anywhere else in any other film where it actually works with it. Haunting wideshots capture the essence of aloneness and bleakness which is a major part of the film in general. One scene in particular is filmed in 2 beautiful wide shots that introduce the characters so well without dialogue and just a song playing that you instantly know what kind of person they are and whether you like them or not.
Donnie Darko unfortunately has caused some division among audiences. Some think that it is a pretensious piece of junk that is too far up it's own ass while others (like me) believe it is a masterpiece. I don't blame some people for thinking this way however, as honestly this isn't a film for everyone. I think the film has such a profound effect on youth that ultimately a lot of the fans of the film to fall into the category of younger audience members which I think people mistake for a bad thing when it really isn't. It's meant to appeal to that generation as it follows 2 teenagers in highschool and their emotional struggles. As for the pretensious part I really don't know what to say, I hate the word pretensious, everyone has their own way of expressing an idea or something and I don't think that anyone makes a film purely seem smart or sbove everyone else.
Here is where I talk about how to approach the film. They are 2 versions available to you: theatrical and director's cut. The directors cut adds about 20 extra minutes of footage and makes some technical change as well. Here is ahow I like to break down the 2 versions in a short fashion: The theatrical version is a better Donnie Darko movie and the director's cut is a better moive. For the ultimate Donnie Darko experience where little to no information is given and less (I don't want to say character development as that makes it seem like this version has no character etc. but I'm going to anyway) character driven scenes are present and overall is a more sci-fi story, watch theatrical. The director's is a more complete film and is how I first watched Donnie Darko and if you are a film buff and prefer to watch a better film as opposed to a better and more compact story, watch director's cut. You can watch the director's cut first and be able to understand a lot of the film and make up your own mind about it and if you like/love it then watch theatrical. Or you can watch theatrical and get the basic plot down and later watch director's to answer some of our questions. I honestly don't really care which way you choose as it all adds up to how you like to enjoy film. I personally prefer the director's cut slightly more but there are changes I dislike in it and one day I would like to edit both editions in to 1 'ultimate cut' for myslef and for me to show my friends.
Overall, Donnie Darko is a sensational and rather depressing (but good depressing. Well not good depressing but like... ah you know what I mean) experience that is essential viewing for absolutely anyone and everyone. It is perfectly captured, superbly acted, has a wonderful and haunting score, an engrossing and mind bending plot, scenes that will make you laugh, scenes that will make you cry, scenes that you make you s***your pants and a f****in' awesome bunny suit. This is why Donnie Darko, is one of my favourite films of all time.