Donnie Darko | Teen Ink

Donnie Darko

February 6, 2018
By Jared McAdam SILVER, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Jared McAdam SILVER, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Donnie Darko is directed by Richard Kelly and stars Jake Gyllenhaal. This film is a favorite of mine, but the first time I saw it not so much. I got the DVD of it when I was around 10 years old and I watched it and I remember thinking “Ooh this is a movie with the guy from Source Code and it's about a bunny monster this could be cool”. After my initial viewing it's safe to say I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about and it took me a couple of years to really grow to appreciate it and today it's one of my all-time favorite movies. After many re-watches, many explanation readings, all kinds of theories of my own, and reading what's available of the book philosophy of time-travel,which is featured heavily in the movie. It's a fictional book of course but that definitely helped me understand the film quite a bit.

What is this show about, well we have a guy named Donnie Darko played by Jake Gyllenhaal as I said and he is getting visions of a bunny named Frank who seems to tell him that the world is going to end very soon. He gives him strange apocalyptic visions, strange abilities, tells him to destroy things, and to upset the balance of his town because something very bad is going to happen to the world if he doesn't. long the way we go through a lot of rebellious teen phases, girls, teachers, family troubles, and all kinds of things that you would expect to see in a film that takes place in the 80s.This takes place in 88 and a lot of really great movies in the 80s dealt with youth and the rebellious stages that we all sometimes go through and most of them were directed or produced or written by John Hughes.

Even the first time I saw it and I was like what? There was something about the film that I just could not stop watching. It was transfixing, it's beautifully shot, the acting is extremely good and even if you don't fully grasp the story on the first viewing you can still watch it as a movie about a rebellious kid dealing with possibly schizophrenia, strange dreams, or simply that there's a ghost around. The first time you see the movie that's kind of what you latch onto, like it's prank,just a ghost, maybe he’s going insane, is he just nuts because of the meds he's taking. What is this movie really about, is it a metaphor for the rebellious stages that we go through when you’re a teen and the things that we do and people who say that “You know the devil made me do it” and things like that. The first time I saw it I remember being like okay well that's what I can instantly kind of grasp but then there's this weird thing with a jet engine that falls on his house and a time portal and is the thing that looks like the thing in the abyss coming out of people's chests, what the hell is going on with this movie?

So it took me quite some time to really truly appreciate it and now sitting here today after a lot of research this is one of my favorite movies .I think Gyllenhaal is fantastic in this movie also Seth Rogen has his film debut as a complete jerk and his first line is literally this “I like your boobs” so that pretty much shaped the rest of Seth Rogen's career. I think the soundtrack is also euphoric and not just the songs that they chose for the movie but the score the song manipulated living is so creepy I listen to that quite often it's a very cool beat. This movie isn't just a very smart film that delves into really odd things about time and different universes it's also an extremely well-made film technically: the sound, the visuals, the acting. Everything about this movie can be appreciated at least to look at even if you're not fully grasping the movie. You can look at Donnie Darko and just be mesmerized by it.

Let's talk about Patrick Swayze and his incredible instructional videos there's one specific shot that just had me in tears laughing, where the boom mic comes into view. Those instructional videos remind me of every horrific annoying video that I have  to watch in school about math, science or feeling good about yourself. It's so well portrayed and very accurately recreated in this film which leads me into this. I forgot when re-watching it last night just how funny this movie is I was laughing quite often. There's a lot of great jokes, there's a lot of really good references to things that we can understand because we've all been through that stage or we've seen things like that. My favorite scene in the film is probably the fear versus love scene where Donnie is talking to this teacher who's trying to lump everything into two categories, that of fear and love, and he's like it's not that simple you can't just lump everything into two categories that doesn't make sense. It's one of the best scenes in the film .I also love when Donnie goes off the deep end and starts talking to Patrick Swayze about how insane he is in front of everybody and how he's wrong.
I cried, my god there are so many amazing sequences in this movie and then there's all this time-travel stuff and a guy in a bunny suit and somebody gets shot and you don't know exactly what's going on. There's two universes maybe in a whole bunch of universes I don't know it's crazy.

Donnie Darko is so great it's one of my favorite movies I highly suggest seeing it if you never have, but just be prepared for the fact that the film really doesn't make sense that much unless you really start to read into it. I really only have one issue with Donnie Darko and a lot of it has to do with that initial viewing that I had and with recommending it to some of you who may have never seen it. It's that on first viewing the theatrical cut really doesn't give you all of the info you need to figure the film out you actually have to do some reading afterwards or watch the director's cut which has excerpts from the book Philosophy of Time Travel included in the film, without that you really don't know what he's talking about. There's a good commentary from Richard Kelly that helps to understand the film a lot more, but a film that's this confusing needs to kind of have some puzzle pieces in it so that you can go “I got it”, but just by watching the theatrical once you can't fully grasp the movie you have to do the homework assignment and that's not really great. That's my one issue with this film. I love it all these years later because I do feel like I understand it and I'll talk a little bit about my theory. All these years later I love it so much and it has really inspired an entire generation to look at film from an analytical perspective and you cannot deny that it did it for me and it's done it for a lot of other people too so SPOILERS!!!



What are my theories on this movie? Well I’m keen to the popular theory that when the jet engine falls into Donnie's room in the beginning this causes a tangent universe, a separate universe from the present-day universe, and during this time period Donnie is led by Frank the bunny or Frank in a bunny suit who he later kills in this tangent universe. Now due to all the time-travel stuff this person is able to come back in time and lead Donnie through various situations that he has to get into to eventually get to the point where he can put the jet engine where it has to be to get back to the present-day universe Gretchen played by Jenna Malone is also dead and towards the end of the tangent universe is killed and she is also somehow coming back in time and is being manipulated by somebody up there to get Donnie to do all the things he has to do perfectly to get the tangent universe back to the actual universe, because if he doesn't both universes are going to collapse on each other and the universe will end. Wow, that's in the philosophy of time travel book and it requires reading and thoughts and Richard Kelly has talked a lot about this. There are alternate theories but just the fact that Richard Kelly has talked so much about it and that book itself leads me to believe that notion, that this is just a tangent universe, because I mean the book talks about whoever the living receiver is, who is the person who's supposed to get through this time period to work out everything in this tangent universe, to get back to the actual one while having abilities and powers like super-strength, how else would Donnie get the axe inside the brass dog head? It's also talked about that he would have telekinesis and he would have the ability to rip the jet engine off of the plane with telekinesis if necessary. There's a lot of things in this movie that are absolutely mind-blowing and there's other alternate theories but if you really look into some of those like maybe it's a time loop going over and over again and Donnie just has to keep trying to do everything perfectly there's way too many plot holes for that to make sense to me one of my biggest issues with that is that the notion that everyone in this tangent universe is just kind of acting or in a play basically to get Donnie to do things. I don't view it like that at all, I think they think they are in a real world and they don't fully realize that they are being manipulated by a higher source to get Donnie to do everything he needs to do like when Drew Barrymore is in her class and she's like cellar-door are the two most beautiful words in the English language and then later Donnie finds his cellar door and knows he has to go in there like those things, I don't think Drew Barrymore was just waiting for him with those words on the board. I think somebody made her do that but she didn't look at it like I'm in a play or I'm in a weird world where I'm forcing Donnie to do things or Gretchen for instance I think she really is falling for Jake Gyllenhaal and a higher source is making her do everything that she has to do to get him to be in a place where he has to be because he wouldn't kill Frank the bunny. If Frank the bunny hadn't run over Gretchen, then Frank the bunny can go back in time to instruct Jake Gyllenhaal to do what he's got to do to get the tangent universe to go away and there's so many little things like that that all fall into place and if you really get to head on with it it's like “Oh my god do I even like this movie anymore what is this movie what is happening right now”.I adore it I love it, I love everything about Donnie Darko and  it's one of my favorites.

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