Donnie Darko: Director’s Cut

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Beth Grant
Director: Richard Kelly

Well we all know about how DONNIE DARKO captured people’s imagination in such a way that you left the cinema feeling dazed and confused. Was it not worth it as you talked to others who had also seen the movie, finding that they were also baffled and then spending weeks deciphering the movie? Well, writer and director Richard Kelly was given extra cash to revisit his debut movie and what we have is a new cut that feels slightly different to the original theatrical cut. The science fiction, time travelling aspect has been brought forward, making the plot points clearer. In fact, it does not mean you can discard the original version; you can now appreciate two versions of a great movie without any compromises.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) has problems; he sleepwalks and it looks like his medication is not having any effect. However on midnight October 2 1988, a voice leads a sleeping Donnie outside where he is told by the mysterious Frank, who is dressed up in a rabbit suit, that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds time.

Waking up the next morning on the local golf course, Donnie makes his way back to his house where he finds that an airplane engine has crashed through his bedroom. The strange thing is that the authorities do not know where it came from or what happened to the rest of the plane. Donnie returns to his school where he finds himself to be a bit of a minor celebrity because he has cheated death. What director Richard Kelly produces next is a brilliant introduction to the rest of the characters synchronised to the music of TEARS FOR FEARS’ ‘Head over Heels’.

We are introduced to Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), the English Literature teacher whose choice of reading material for her students is questioned by the PC, social studies teacher, Beth Farmer who views classic literature to be pornography. Mrs Farmer, in her own classes, tries to teach her students the difference between right and wrong, aided by videos from the local self-help guru Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). She believes in only two aspects of what she calls the lifeline – fear and love. Donnie questions the validity of the life line as it ignores other aspects of human emotion. His point of view gets him into trouble with the school authorities.

A few nights later, Frank leads Donnie to vandalise the water pipes at his school. The next morning, the students find the school has been shut down. Donnie walks home from school and comes across Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone), the new girl in his English class. He walks her home and at some point along the way Donnie stumbles through an attempt to ask her out on a date. Finding him a bit weird but in a good way, Gretchen accepts.

Donnie confides with his psychiatrist Dr Lilian Thurman (Katharine Ross) who, running out of options, hypnotises him to figure out why he sleepwalks. Donnie feels that there is a strange purpose to his life and regardless of the consequences of his actions, he finds himself at a lonesome crossroads. Dr Thurman does her best to lead Donnie on the right path but what is the strange connection between Frank, time travel and the reclusive Mrs Roberta Sparrow, who coincidently had written a book about time travel.

The message that is conveyed in this new cut is one of love. Yes, this is a love story with a time travel angle to it. Donnie loves his family and has fallen in love with Gretchen. He knows that events will lead to the deaths of his nearest and dearest and so to prevent this, a sacrifice must be made. Extra effects and a glimpse into Sparrow’s time travel book will make the plot clearer. Even with all the tinkering, this is still a powerful debut that questions authority and the way of the world.

6 out of 6 stars