Donnie Darko – Director’s Cut
directed by Richard Kelly
starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, and Mary McDonnell
MVD / Arrow
Wealth doesn’t shield you from schizophrenia, but it allows you act it out on a nicer, more expensive stage. Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) lives a nice upper class L.A. life. Money, easy going parents with no real expectations, snotty friends and nice cars all make is life complete and completely meaningless. He tends to black out and wake up in odd places like the Angeles Crest Highway, but no one does much about it. He even has an invisible friend, a creepy life size rabbit that tells him when the world will end and what he should vandalize next. His sister sympathizes, his parents send him to counseling, and Mr. Rabbit talks him into demolishing his school. A jet engine falls into his bed room, but no airplane reports one missing and the airlines do tend to check on these things. Does the world really end? Well, not for everyone, but we do eventually discover were that pesky jet engine comes from.
This movie has “cult” status and ranks highly on IMBD Cult Film lists. The trivia listings point out lots of things one might not catch on a single viewing. The film feels defocused; on some level that gives it an insider’s view of Donnie’s mental state but he’s not very sympathetic. The high school he attends looks pretty casual; students appear in class with no warnings and the teacher accepts them and passes out home work without question. The creepy element is present but not emphasized. It needs multiple views to comprehend and you may not want to make that investment, many a time I thought: “Huh? What just happened?” and rewinding did little to clarify. There’s interesting material here, but frankly I can’t seem to connect to it.
Now, this is a “Director’s Cut” and those are often longer and less tight than original release versions. Some clarity lurks in the copious special features including a large art project focusing on the Rabbit as art, as well as a good collection of productions stills and interviews. There doesn’t seem to be a commentary track, that’s a disappointment as an insider view of this world would add to its clarity. It’s a cult film, but I’m not ready to drink the Koolaide.