Donnie Darko

“Donnie Darko”
Here’s what you should never do when you’re at home by yourself, sick, on a rainy Monday afternoon: watch that Donnie Darko movie everybody’s always raving about. Good grief. I was having paracetamol-enhanced psycho bunny dreams all night. Seriously though, what the hell was up with that film? I can’t stop thinking about it. The performances were all great, and I can finally see why folks rave about Jake Gyllenhaal. (He would have made a great replacement for Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2.) The music was fantastic. Even real 80’s movies didn’t have such great period soundtracks. Patrick Swayze was suitably sleazy in his small role. I’m just not sure I understand what actually happened in the film. Judging by the reviews I’ve read, not a lot of other people do either. Have you seen it? Do you have a theory?At first I thought maybe the whole film was a dream that Donnie had while the engine was smashing down on him, but there were bits of the film that didn’t fit that theory so well (like the random scenes focussing on Drew Barrymore). My new theory is that the whole film is a time travel paradox. Donnie escapes death from above only to be warned about his impending doom, which will result from the engine of his mother’s plane falling through a time rip… thus killing him in the past and negating her ever taking the journey in the first place. Does that make any sense? I mean, I know it doesn’t make a lot, but as near as I can tell it mostly explains what happens. I may have to watch it again. The Snook needs to weigh in on this.


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  1. Ah, what a great film. I was also left scratching my head at the end of it…I reached a similar conclusion re the time travel and Donnie “hitching a ride” back in time through a wormhole with the plane engine, and changing all the following events by his death…but there are unresolved things, like why was it Frank who was appearing to him in his “visions”? And why did Gretchen feel like she knew Donnie when she was riding past the Darko’s house after the jet engine killed him??

    I thought it was a bit Lynch-esque…

  2. I’ve always loved that movie, even if I do cry at the end. I think your time travel theory/summary is on the ball.

    The director’s cut is supposed to open in theaters today (the 23rd). I can’t find a theater playing it within an hour and a half of here, but yet I can still see Daddy Day Care which is already out on dvd! Too many tourists.

    I am determined to one day knit Frank (the bunny) on something.

  3. Oooh, I loves me some magic realism. I think this is a great modern example of the genre.

    Call me simpleton, but I took it at face value, more or less. It was Donnie’s desire to spare his mother, his sister, and Gretchen that transported him into his bed twenty-eight days in the past. It’s like the physics teacher says; since he sees one possible future, he has the choice to change it. I think it’s his self-sacrificing choice that’s key.

    Or maybe it was all a paranoid fantasy, but that seems like a bit of a cop-out.

  4. Ahhh, see, I wondered about that! So we’re to understand that the plane crashes? I guess it would, huh. So he could’ve avoided everything… But *how* does he choose? I didn’t quite get the bit where he took Gretchen out to see the storm. Was it just him deciding at that moment? I do like your theory better than mine, as the whole paradox issue of mine bothered me. In yours that’s the results of his choice, not a random occurrence.

    So I guess the bit that complicates everything is that Donnie *does* have his “issues”. If the same plot took place with a mentally-healthy lead character, it would eliminate a lot of the fun. We have to wonder if it was just paranoid fantasy… but like you said, that would’ve been a cop-out.

  5. Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

    The DD website is very well-designed, but it takes away a lot of the fun by over-explaining much of the movie, and it turns out to be one of those cases where what you came up with reflecting on the film after watching it is probably more interesting than what the answers are (*cough* Matrix)

    I’m going to see the Director’s Cut this weekend.

  6. but that’s what i fear about the director’s cut… i read an interview with the director where he stated a lot of the website stuff was going to be in the new version. sometimes it is better to do the david lynch way, ala mulholland drive, where you have to find the answers yourself. i was almost screaming at the end of vanilla sky when the noah taylor character came in and EXPLAINED everything in a long speech. i had actually enjoyed it up until at that point. or, enjoyed it as much as you can enjoy a tom cruise film.

  7. You were right to, Robert. I saw the Director’s Cut yesterday and, while it’s still a great movie, the cut definitely suffered from a Midichlorian problem…Unnecessary exposition trying to explain the unexplainable.

  8. I had some difficulty with the DD website. I got up to the part with the little window with the repeating movie of Mr. Darko driving in the car but I couldn’t get past there. I clicked all over the place. If I closed the window it just reopened and started playing again. Maybe it’s a Mac issue. *shrug*

    Anyway, thanks for the tip about the Director’s Cut, Kevin. I was thinking that if it showed up here I might take the Snook to see it, but if it gives too much away he’d have more fun watching the original.

  9. Note to Aussies: I just discovered the Director’s Cut is opening here on August 12.

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