Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Donnie Darko: The 15th Anniversary Restored Director’s Cut
was a box office flop that inspired a non-canonical sequel. For obvious reasons,
the late fall of 2001 was not a great time to release a film about a jet engine
mysteriously falling out of the sky into the protagonist’s bedroom, but it
would find its audience through midnight screenings and home video (including
VHS). Now the apocalyptic high school angst is back in the 4K restored director’s
cut and the original theatrical edit of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (trailer
both of which open in select cities starting this Friday.
to his family’s consternation, Donnie Darko has gone off his meds. However, he
will consider taking them again when strange things start happening around him.
For one thing, he is sleepwalking again. During his latest bout of
somnambulism, he encounters “Frank,” presumably a dude in a bunny suit or possibly a
cosmic rabbit over six feet tall (not even counting the ears), who tells him
the world will end inn twenty-six days.
Darko finally returns home, he finds it cordoned off by the FAA. Evidently, his
rendezvous with Frank saved him from the aforementioned jet engine. Much to the
investigators’ bewilderment, there are no aircraft in the vicinity missing any
hardware. However, Darko will figure out what it is and how it is significant
thanks to Frank’s subsequent cryptic messages and The Philosophy of Time Travel, a theoretical treatise written by
Roberta Sparrow, a.k.a. “Grandma Death,” an addled old lady in the neighborhood
obsessed with her mailbox.
there was also a Millennial generation of genre film fans who were obsessed
with Donnie Darko. To paraphrase
Pacino, they knew the film so well, he was “Don Darko” to them. It seems some
prefer the twenty-minute-shorter theatrical version to the director’s cut,
because it is more ambiguous and open to interpretation. However, those who
start with Kelly’s cut will be struck by the passages from Sparrow’s book that
give context to the strange events of Darko’s life. Essentially, they make the
nun turned science teacher into a prophet in her own time and dimension.
Gyllenhaal is weirdly compelling as Darko, a rather strange, not especially
well-socialized teen, who could indeed be the younger alter-ego of Gyllenhaal’s
Nightcrawler character, Louis Bloom.
Arguably, Darko is the film that made
the Gyllenhaals the Gyllenhaals, convincingly casting his sister Maggie as
Darko’s sister Elizabeth.
it is a number of the supporting performances that really make indelible impressions.
Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne have terrific bantering chemistry together,
but they are ultimately quite touching as Darko’s parents. Executive producer
Drew Barrymore is subversively sly and witty as Karen Pomery, the only decent
teacher at Darko’s progressive prep school. Patrick Swayze willingly blows up
his big screen image as sleazy self-help guru Jim Cunningham, while the
Katharine Ross totally sells some intense hypnosis sessions, as Darko’s shrink,
Without a doubt, Darko’s creepy look and spot-on 1980s soundtrack contributed
immeasurably to its cult success. There is still something about it that gets
under your skin (in a good way), perhaps now more than ever. Highly recommended
in its director’s cut, Donnie Darko opens
this Friday (3/31) in New York, at the Metrograph (theatrical cut) and in Los
Angeles at the Cinefamily (both versions).
Labels: Richard Kelly, Time Travel Films