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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut” (2001)

October 17, 2011

When I first saw “Donnie Darko” a few years ago, I was, a lack for a better word, confused as fuck. I knew that the movie was referring to time travel, and the interpretations of believing in something, God or not. The ending didn’t make complete sense, but I think I knew where it was possibly going. It’s one of those movies where multiple viewings will help the viewer understand everything better. So, when I received the request to review this movie for my weekly Blast from the Past Movie Review, I decided to rent the Richard Kelly Director’s Cut. Twenty more minutes have been added into the movie, which gives the viewer an easier understanding regarding what is going on.

As the plot goes, the movie is about a troubled teenager named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s had a checkered past. Donnie doesn’t get along too well with his family, his teachers or his classmates; but he does manage to find an understanding companion in a new girl, named Gretchen (Jena Malone). Donnie pursues Gretchen even further by asking her to date him; she agrees to do so. Donnie’s psychiatrist (Katharine Ross) discovers hypnosis is the best way to divulge into his hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank – a large bunny that only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is simply not there. Both the event, and Donnie’s escape, seems to have been caused by supernatural events, a new tangent in the space time continuum has been created, it’s up to Donnie to figure what needs to be done to set things right.

The Director’s cut is extremely helpful, for people who’ve seen the original cut and couldn’t make heads or tales out of it. The book that Donnie receives from his science teacher (Noah Wyle), The Philosophy of Time Travel, pages from that book are insert-overlapped throughout key scenes in the film to give the viewer a better understanding. I noticed that the director’s cut involves more deepness of the characters, especially Donnie’s English teacher, Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore).  Her character is much more enlightening and thought provoking. Thanks to the new text inserts, the audience is not kept in the dark for that long. But, for some who like a little mystery/mind-games they might feel cheated in that aspect. There’s still enough to leave newer viewers guessing.

It’s shame that this is the only good thing, writer/director Richard Kelly has done. It seems like ever since he finished this movie, he’s tried to one up it. The silliness that is “Southland Tales” seems to make a mockery of the originality he was praised for, and “The Box”, just came off as lazy, slow, and felt like a forgettable episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Kelly’s focus towards “Donnie Darko” was palpable, with it’s daring visions of different kind of science fiction, blending elements of mythology, theology, and science seems like a hard thing to accomplish. Wait made this movie the cult hit that it is known for, is it’s writing by Kelly. Sure you can have strong cast (which this film does), but it’s always about story, without that you’ve got…well, you figure it out.

GRADE: A

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