Sunday, September 22, 2013

Movie #213: Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is a rather fucked-up sci-fi drama kind of thing starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, and Beth Grant. Try and follow this.

Donne Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled, confused, weird and very intelligent teenager who sleepwalks. He takes meds for some mental health issues, and he hallucinates. One morning, he wakes up on a golf course, and comes home to find that an engine from a plane has crushed his room. His family is unharmed, but he would have been killed if he'd been home. He credits a huge, freaky rabbit named Frank (James Duval, but we don't learn that until later) for saving him.

The movie progresses and Frank talks to Donnie, telling him to do things. He floods the school, and then burns down the home of the local author/cult leader whose self-help books are running rampant in the community (Swayze). This reveals that said author runs a kiddie porn ring, which gets him arrested, which means Donnie's mother (Mary McDonnell) takes over for the teacher (Beth Grant) who was going to take a dance troupe to Star Search, meaning she and Donnie's little sister (Daveigh Chase) are on a plane coming home the night of a Halloween party.

But I'm missing a few things. During this whole month (the movie takes place over October 1988), Donnie starts dating the new girl in town, Gretchen (Malone), but Frank continues to torment him, asking him about time travel. He gets a book on the subject written by a local crazy lady (Patience Cleveland), and on the night of the Halloween party, he and Gretchen go up to see her. Tragedy happens, Gretchen gets run down by a dude driving too fast on the road...who turns out to be Frank. Donnie shoots Frank, and comes to figure out that he could prevent all of this if he just stays in bed the night the chunk of the plane (which comes from the plane that his mother and sister are on, coming back) crushes his room.

WHAAAT.

I have not seen the director's cut, which might make more sense(?). As it is, the movie doesn't go out of its way to explain shit. I kinda like that, in a way; you get the sense that there is a kind of science at work here, but even Donnie, who's really intelligent, is way out of his depth. How he goes back in time and makes the choice to die rather than set this whole end-of-the-world thing in motion, I don't know, it's never explained. It just kind of happens. But the scene at the end after Donnie dies where "Mad World" plays and we pan through the other characters, jostled awake by memories of events that will never happen, is really awesome.

The movie is moody as hell, and always makes me want to run Whispering Vault. Also, it's totally a God-Machine story, and viewed in that context, the "wtf is going on" aspects are more palatable.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Gothika