Donnie Darko (2001) movie poster

(2001) dir. Richard Kelly
viewed: 04/13/02

It’s a shame that it has taken me so long to get around to writing about Donnie Darko.

At the time I had originally watched it, I found it fairly thought-provoking, and I think I was waiting to collect my thoughts on it before writing. But then, I got busy and didn’t get around to it and other stuff happened, and now, now that I am finally getting around to it, it is far from fresh in my mind.

A lesson to me here in the film diaries.

Donnie Darko is an interesting sci-fi/80′s teen/coming-of-age film, set in October of 1988, which the writer/director, first-time filmmaker, Richard Kelly, envisions as the brink of the end of existence as was known at the late period of the Reagan era.

It’s an clever conceit, and Kelly plays it out literally. The world is coming to an end, and the eponymous hero is the only one who can save the day, a delusional, somewhat psychotic, very troubled teen, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, must accept some version of reality in order to stop the destruction of the universe.

The film’s nostalgia for the 80′s leans away from the purely tacky 80′s kitcsh that populates most films that seek to go retro in that dirrection. The music is more the moody, alternative stuff that most people weren’t making the top 40. And there are fewer jokes at the expense of the period. The film has a fondness for the time that only someone who had a significant period of their life situated in it would possibly have. And, of course, he seems to have maybe been just old enough to consider himself a “Gen X’er”…

The film has an earnestness that somehow grew on me. And I say that because I was thinking that overall direction of the film, the handling of scenes, and the actors, somehow seemed a bit sub-par and amateurish. But the script and the general ideas of the film kept me thinking about it.

Donnie Darko might well merit a second look. I found it pretty interesting and also found myself recommending it to a few people.