Donnie Darko: A Review
What comes to mind when you think of a modern adolescent coming of age movie? Is it alienation, rebellion, probably first love? In Donnie Darko (2001), writer/director Richard Kelly employs all of these familiar themes; then he adds humor, witty satire, time travel, apocalyptic prophecy, and a bi-pedal, six foot tall nightmare of a rabbit, who instructs the young and confused Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) through haunting visions and an eerie voice that runs through Donnie‘s head. Ok, so maybe this sounds like a plotline lifted straight from the WB's primetime lineup (minus the wit), but Kelly uses these seemingly absurd, unrelated elements to create an amazingly complex and clever story that Buffy could only dream of.
Donnie Darko begins with a panoramic, morning shot of a mountain range, setting the stage for a film as wide open as the landscape. The camera pans around, focusing slowly on a distant figure, lying unconscious in the middle of a mountain road. The silence is broken only by soft, sporadic blue notes, echoing from a piano. As the camera draws closer, the figure rises, giving the audience their first glimpse of Donnie Darko. With a chuckling smirk, he picks up his bicycle and heads back home. Immediately, Kelly forces the question, “Why the hell is this kid lying in the middle of road?” This is the first question that the viewer is forced to ponder and it is definitely not the last.
Kelly wastes no time establishing the film’s dark tone. Not even five minutes into the movie, an eerie voice instructs Donnie to “Wake up.” In a trance, he rises from bed and follows the voice out of his house and to a golf course. He finds the above mentioned rabbit, Frank, who slowly says, “Twenty-eight days, six hours, forty-two minutes, twelve seconds. That is when the world will end." Donnie's only response is, "Why?" He and the audience will spend the rest of the movie trying to find the answer. And, to make things more complicated,...
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