Have you ever had a recurring image in your dreams? It’s something you spend all you time thinking about, but you have no idea how it connects to you everyday life. It is said that dreams are the conciseness’s gateway into your brain, giving you the answer to your problem. You may not even be suffering from a problem. Maybe you have an instinct that something wrongs going to happen and your image is trying to confirm it. This is something that everyone can relate to, and this is why Donnie Darko has remained a cult classic in it’s decade long reputation.
Released back in 2001, this movie was given a limited release by Drew Barrymore’s production company (she also plays an English teacher). Despite great acclaim from most film critics, the movie was in and out of the theater quietly, due to the September 11 attacks happening a month before it’s release. With a jet engine crash as part of the story, you could see why showing that may have not been the best thing for a sensitive audience. Luckily, it’s DVD sales were strong, and it became somewhat of a sleeper hit. I never had the chance to see this film in theaters, as I was too young at the time. Watching it on Netflix, I wanted to see how this holds up and figure out if it’s as good as it’s fans say it is.
Donnie Darko follows a troubled high scholar, played by a younger, rising Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s your basic Tim Burton main character; he’s an outsider, has very few friends, and feels misunderstood. He suffers from sleepwalking and comes across a six-foot tall bunny named Frank who tells him that the world will end on Halloween. Returning home after his doomsday prophecy, he finds that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom, with no one knowing where the engine has come from and no airplanes were reported flying over the area.
While dealing with the idea he’s going to die, he meets a new student (played by Jena Malone) and deals with bullies (one of them played by a then unknown Seth Rogan). The bullies were one thing I hated. They both seem sadistic to be bullies, but they’re one-dimensional and have no redeemable qualities. They feel out of place in a story like this. In the meantime, he continues to hear Frank, and he’s told to commit crimes. I want to interpret this has his reaction to his doom. As a teenager, he has no boundaries and he’s not going to have any consequences to face, so he might as well do what he feels. But he’s not committing these acts for no reason. There is a better purpose, but I’ll leave that to you to see.
I can see why this movie has a big audience. It’s basically an art film that teenagers can watch without feeling like a nerd. They can relate to the films idea on teenage problems, and they can try and decode the hallucinations and science fiction concepts. It’s very mysterious, and I found it interesting.
I’ll give it four crashed jet engines out of five. While I can’t say it’s a masterpiece like a lot of people say, I’ll say I was hooked. The film kept my attention to the end to see if Donnie’s visions came to light. But once you’ve seen what happens, there’s really nothing left to look into. There are people that love rewatching this, though once was enough for me. I’m glad I saw Donnie Darko.