Donny Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a teenager with some issues. Most teenagers have issues, but Donnie’s issues lean a bit toward the bizarre. He’s a really smart kid, but his parents think he has mental problems, and because of this, they have him in therapy and he’s supposed to be taking medication to help him. Despite the therapy and medication however, he starts seeing a man in a horrific looking rabbit costume named Frank who tells him that the world will end in 28 days and then subsequently feeds him more cryptic messages and tells him to do various things, such as busting the water main in the school and burning down the mansion of local motivational speaker, Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). He was also responsible for Donnie’s nightly excursions out of the house. Donnie would wake up in random places farther and farther from home, not knowing how he got there, or why he was there. It was fortunate for him that he was out the night Frank gave him the message about the world ending however, as it was that night that a jet engine fell through the roof of his bedroom and would have killed him had he been there. The strange thing is, no one knows where the engine came from. When Frank starts talking to Donnie about time travel and Donnie talks to his science teacher about it, his science teacher gives him a book on time travel written by a former teacher, who is now 101 years old and known locally as grandma death. Could this book hold the key to what’s happening? Donne goes on a quest to figure things out, but what answers will he find, and will any of it make any difference in the end?
I had seen the theatrical version of this film years ago, so for this review, because I had limited time between receiving my reiew copy and having to put out the new issue of the magazine, I chose to watch the director’s cut of the film. Apparently, the big difference between the theatrical version and the director’s cut is that the director’s cut includes some scientific explanations for what’s going on and is less mysterious about what’s happening and why. I remember being really confused by the theatrical version of the film, so seeing a version that had some explanation to it really helped, even if the explanations it offered were still a bit vague. I won’t get into it all here as it’s all rather strange, but anyone who has seen the theatrical version and was confused by it might want to watch the director’s cut just for the sake of understanding the story better.
This is a strange film that’s really hard to describe and will likely leave you confused regardless of which version you watch, however in saying that I don’t mean to imply that it’s a bad film in any way. It’s simply just confusing. The film itself is actually very…well, I don’t know how to describe it. The characters and the strangeness of it will keep you interested, despite the confusing events and vague explanations for them. Donnie Darko is actually a likeable character. He just wants to be normal and to not feel like he’s broken somehow, and yet all the events in the story seem to continually have him confused and riding the very thin line between sanity and madness. I won’t even pretend that I fully understand the film, but I will say that the bizarreness of it will grab a hold of you and not let go until the very end. It’s one of those films that should be seen at least once. Regardless of whether or not you understand it, if you’re a fan of film, you should at the very least see this film one time, because it’s so completely different than your standard Hollywood fare. The performances are excellent, and how could they have not been with names like Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Berrymore, Noah Wyle, Mary McDonnell and Patrick Swayze?
I reviewed the blu-ray version of the 10th Anniversary Edition of the film for this review. It includes a blu-ray disc that contains both the theatrical and director’s cut versions of the film along with several commentary tracks, two DVDs, one of which contains the film and other special features, and another which contains just special features, and an extra disc that contains a digital copy of the film. This is really an absolutely packed release, and one that any fan of the film will want to have in their collection.