Jake Gyllenhaal……….Donnie Darko
Holmes Osborne……….Eddie Darko
Maggie Gyllenhaal……….Elizabeth Darko
Daveigh Chase……….Samantha Darko
Mary McDonnell……….Mrs. Rose Darko
Arthur Taxier……….Dr. Fisher
Patrick Swayze……….Jim Cunningham
Mark Hoffman……….Police Officer
David St. James……….Bob Garland
Tom Tangen……….Man in Red Jogging Suit
Jazzie Mahannah……….Joanie James
Jolene Purdy……….Cherita Chen
Stuart Stone……….Ronald Fisher
Gary Lundy……….Sean Smith
Sometimes a movie can be more than just an a director’s vision meshed with actors and a writer’s vision about the world. The mesh of a quality director, an engaging story and actors who are able to show the world a particular viewpoint of things in life can engage the faculty in some people about the recklessness of youth, teenage love or the tragic consequences of certain behavior to a person’s life. And sometimes this vision, this engagement of the big screen, can give a person much to talk about. Certain movies (big ticket and low budget alike) can bring about a lot of intellectual conversations about life and an added bonus of Patrick Swayze as a twisted combination of motivational speaker and evangelical preacher.
And then there’s Donnie Darko.
Donnie Darko stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the protagonist of the same name, a high school student with some serious mental disorders. After he avoids having a jet engine crash through his bedroom, a rabbit named Frank (James Duval) tells him he has 28 days left until the world ends. Mixed in this mess are issues with quantum mechanics (most notably time travel), late 1980s political jingo and the meaning of it all. The movie focus’ is on Donnie’s reality or lack thereof as it were.
Donnie’s problem, besides schizophrenia, is that he sees the world around him being turned into two polar opposites and he seems to be the only one to see the grays of a black and white world. He sees many things no one else does, and Frank has him do many things that aren’t very pleasant to this world of his. As the days count down, Donnie searches for the answers to Frank’s existence and the answers to everything he’s been seeing and experiencing.
Released in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, Donnie Darko was a critical success and a commercial dud that has since developed into a cult classic of sorts. There is speculation and philosophizing about Donnie. Is he a savior? Is he just a schizophrenic having hallucinations about time travel? Or is he just in the throes of his fate, trying to sort it out? There can be a lot of speculation about the symbols of this movie, but one thing stands out in particular.
It’s not very good.
Donnie Darko is a movie that ultimately relies too much upon these very symbols, too much on heavy meaning and heavy handedness, to deliver anything more than a mediocre movie, at best. While things from the beginning that don’t mean much end up showing themselves in the film’s final acts, it’s almost too convenient at times. The movie’s plot is so relentless with symbols, to the point where characters are shuffled in and out with no real explanation, minor plot points that should be overlooked being thrust into main focus. Little details, little pieces of character development, are used when they ultimately prove irrelevant.
Donnie is rather ineffective as a main character. There is no pull, no major reason why you are supposed to care about him, his life, and ultimately his fate. It’s more of a case of ‘Here’s Donnie, now care.’ than any sort of character building on the part of the movie. He’s nothing but a seriously affected individual who does horrible things because a voice in his head tells him to; no more, no less.
It’s a very beautiful looking film with lots of well-chosen music, but its more style than substance. Instead, it’s a flimsy movie with allusions to grandeur found by some, but ultimately to think of this movie as anything more than what it is requires a lot more though, time and effort than a movie of this quality warrants.
The transfer is widescreen and looks great. The colors are dark and forbidden, yet vivid and impressive.
Dolby digital 5.1, and boy does it sound outstanding.
Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut comes with a second disc of extras. First up is a production diary (which has an alternate commentary track), which basically is just the director and crew filming themselves throughout the film-making process. Nothing too incredibly exciting to start off with, as it’s basically just a series of film montages of the crew setting up and filming each shot with discussion of possible angles and whatnot.
The Cult of Donnie Darko deals with the status of the movie since its release and into its cult classic status. It’s an exploration behind the fans and the folklore behind the movie. It tackles peoples perception of the film and its’ alternate perceptions, meanings and otherwise higher-order level styles of thinking, possibilities and potential philosophical & religious implications that the movie can have.
Storyboard to screen is rather interesting, as it is featured parts of the movie and how they turned out as compared to how they were storyboarded out. Nothing too incredible or revealing, but it is fascinating from an aesthetic standpoint.
Also included is a documentary from the #1 Darko fan; in the summer of 2004 a website held a competition with documentaries about who was the biggest Donnie Darko fan out there. Darryl Donaldson, whose documentary is more pathetic than anything else, filmed the whole thing on his obsession with the movie. It’s unintentionally hilarious, as he talks about how he’s like Donnie and for a guy whose probably close to 30 he comes off like a teenage fan-girl of Orlando Bloom.
The theatrical trailer for the director’s cut DVD is provided as well.