Review: Donnie Darko
DVD: Donnie Darko (2001)
I normally like to start my reviews off with a little synopsis, just to get you in the mood. However, sometimes this is impossible, either because any information about this film will give the plot away or, as in the case of Donnie Darko, not only would I give the plot but would also have to write about God, time travel, ghosts, possible alien intervention and various theories about … this film, and most of all I would confuse the hell out of you if you’ve never seen it. Much loved since its release, I suppose one could call this a cult film, but it’s more than just quirky and oddball. Director/writer Richard Kelly treats the viewer as an intelligent being, able to make his/her own decisions on the meaning of this film and interpret it themselves.
Kelly was 26 when he made this film and his youth and fearlessness comes through in both story and direction. Turning his gaze on Middle America in the 1980’s, incorporating paedophilia and religion along with time travel and mental illness was a brave move. Couple that with no clear explanation for the events in the story and you have a film that will affect you, whether or not you ‘understand’ it. The acting in this film is of course top notch; a very young Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing as the laconic, smirking and sleepy eyed Donnie. Special mention to Holmes Osborne as Donnie’s awesomely funny dad Eddie. Also Patrick Swayze, acting against type and doing a great turn as sleazy Jim Cunningham.
My one complaint about the story in this movie is the character of Roberta Sparrow/Grandma Death. I always feel there should have been a little more of her. She seems to be central to the story, but perhaps more of her would make the story more tangible and ruin it.
There are two versions of this movie included in the Arrow Films Blu-ray release. One is the original theatrical cut, and the other the longer directors cut, which includes some deleted scenes such as the pumpkin carving scene with Maggie Gyllenhaal. It also makes the story a little ‘clearer’. For example: pages of the book written by Grandma death about time travel appear in scenes explaining why certain things are happening.
Unfortunately I was sent the DVD screener version of only the theatrical cut, so I cannot comment on it here, and I must admit I am a little disappointed that I can’t give Arrow it’s due for such an epic release by giving you a full review of BOTH films and commentaries and tell you what the 4K edition’s picture and sound is like, as the DVD is…a DVD and not a 4k Blu-ray.