Donnie Darko Screen 13 articles

Donnie Darko


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  • Third viewing, and I think it's now safe to say that I just don't connect with Kelly's (to my mind) fundamentally adolescent mindset. Certainly this film makes zero sense on a narrative level*, which is a problem for those of us who demand dotted i's and crossed t's in even the wooliest speculative fiction. Even if I let that stuff go, though, the whole teenage messianic vibe just doesn't speak to me, as I never felt that sort of exhausting, destabilizing self-importance.

  • Donnie Darko viscerally resonated with me in 2001... Re-watching the film last month, at 37, reminded me of who I was and who I am... Such is the mechanics of our emotional evolution with art. In 2001, Donnie Darko's narrative somehow made perfect sense to me. In 2017, I'm less sure of the convoluted particulars and less patiently inclined to sort them out. At this point in my life, I'm drawn less to puzzle boxes than to a rapturous purity of empathy and aesthetic.

  • This endlessly inventive film is the virtual antithesis of happy-go-lucky '80s teen flicks, hauntingly gauging the pulse of a nation gripped by sexual repression and political uncertainty. Kelly's jabs at Reaganism are about as subtle as his devilishly boldfaced “Vote Dukakis” shtick. By film's end, Kelly has expertly transformed his comfortable '80s milieu into an apocalyptic sweat chamber nervously situated between moral complacency and heartbreaking could-have-been hopefulness.

  • A wondrous, moodily self-involved piece of work that employs X-Files magic realism to galvanize what might have been a routine tale of suburban teen angst—OK, borderline schizophrenia. Part comic book, part case study, this is certainly the most original and venturesome American indie I've seen this year.

  • Donnie's sessions with his therapist—and with a high school teacher who's not supposed to discuss theoretical physics with students—are, like the rest of this creepy, insightful coming-of-age story (2001), beautifully kaleidoscopic in tone. Kelly is a supple and courageous storyteller, boldly free-associating as he mixes parody and satire with earnest psychodrama and coming up with plot points no one could anticipate.

  • It's rare for a period piece to cover an era that wasn't defined by some epochal event, and it's even rarer for a film to bring that era to life with any kind of vividness and specificity. Writer-director Richard Kelly was just coming into adolescence in October 1988, the timeframe for his audacious and frighteningly assured debut Donnie Darko, and his memories have been processed in an offbeat and distinctly personal vision, somewhere between coming-of-age and science fiction.

  • The surface of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (2001) is so peculiar, clever, and entertaining (creepy giant bunnies, falling airplane engines, time travel, Patrick Swayze) that it’s almost possible to overlook what truly sets it apart, especially from its many fellow teen films – that all these trappings are in the service of a serious, uncompromising portrait of its deeply disturbed, mentally ill title character.

  • What makes this such a fine film, even an astounding one given that its director was fresh out of film school and only 26 years old when he made it, is that despite (or maybe because of) its multiplicity of generic touchstones and filmic allusions, it never settles in one genre for long or steals too much from any one film.

  • An extravagant pastiche of teen dramedy, gothic romance, period piece, supernatural fantasy, metaphysical thriller, music video, narrative puzzle, and more, the feature debut of 26-year-old writer-director Richard Kelly sent a dozen familiar genres head over heels through the looking glass. It verged, at times, on the unintelligible, but for certain members of the audience it was also unforgettable.

  • It looks more and more like one of the essential American movies of this decade. Any movie that keeps its secrets this beautifully—even after two viewings, even with 20 semi-"explanatory" minutes added, even with a plot that seems so overdetermined from the outset—any movie like this will be reckoned with for years to come.

  • Whatever happened to this Richard Kelly? Viewing companion for my second pass on The Box pointed out that by then he's totally addicted to rotely symmetrical compositions, but here pretty much every shot is perfect in unpredictable ways... Despite the fact that [Kelly] apparently can't make a movie without a wormhole, here everything feels logically organized rather than the product of an increasingly insular mind.

  • The effect is visually subtle, but it creates an aura of depression and anxiety, which is echoed in Gyllenhaal’s downcast gaze and slumped-over neck and shoulders, suggesting that the knowledge in his head is too heavy to bear. Donnie Darko would be unimaginable without Gyllenhaal’s performance, still the most memorable of a fine career.

  • Kelly’s film is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma inside a valentine... It’s the cult film as supercollider physics experiment: What would happen if, for example, particles of the Buffyverse would be “smushed” up with the gravitational tangents of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia? Darko’s “Mad World” montage is a partial answer.

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