“28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds: that is when the world will end.” -Frank
If the name “Donnie Darko” sounds like a superhero to you, it may be because the name belongs to one. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhal) is a 16-year-old product of the 80’s, over his head in a simpleminded society of censorship and 10 step programs. We learn from the guru of self-help Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) that there is Fear and there is Love, and everything in between is irrelevant to life. Cunningham has almost all the faculty at Donnie’s school on board with his “learn to love” program.
The children of the school are products of this kind of small-mindedness as well. This is a school where girls are pressured into joining “girl groups” like “Sparklemotion,” where they are exploited and perform for many audiences.
This is a school where teachers with open minds able to overcome self-prescribed nonsense are fired. This is a society where Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore) says, “the kids need to fight for themselves, because their parents don’t have a clue.”
A world that looks like this is almost certain for collapse on its own. But this world is interrupted when Donnie is awakened to a voice, calling him out of his sleep on the night of October 2, 1988. He is guided by the eerie voice of a giant rabbit named Frank to a golf course where he awaits a reason for his awakening.
It is here that Donnie begins his journey down a rabbit hole, where he finds a Wonderland of his own. He confronts issues on free will and predestination, simple mindedness vs. complex thought, lies within society and honest truth, child exploitation and cruelty, fear of dying alone, and a calling to save the world from its own demise. Donnie finds the meaning of “deus ex machina” as he writes his poem.
“‘A storm is coming,’ Frank says. ‘A storm that will swallow the children. But I will deliver them from the kingdom of pain. I will deliver the children back to their doorsteps. I’ll send the monsters back to the underground. I’ll send them back to a place where no one else can see them. Except for me. Because I am Donnie Darko.’”
Can Donnie save the world? Can Donnie send the monsters away? And what kind of sacrifices might it take?
Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is an amazingly theological movie – but don’t let that scare you. This movie is also sarcastic, funny, witty and dark. It is a tribute to many things, including The Evil Dead, ET, The Smurfs, 80’s music, Stephen King’s It, the presidential debates, the Reagan era, Alice in Wonderland, superheroes and Halloween parties. But most of all, it is a tribute to the movie infamous for stirring up controversy at the end of the 80’s – The Last Temptation of Christ.
This movie is packed with stars including Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze, Jake Gyllenhal, and of course a six foot tall bunny rabbit named Frank.
Donnie Darko blew audiences away at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to become an instant cult classic within a year’s time. I first saw this movie during the summer of 2002, and was so captivated that I had to watch it at least 20 more times. This is one of those films you get a new revelation from during each viewing. Donnie Darko is at the top of my movie list. So if you’re into deep movies that you have to think through, and you’re not afraid of evil looking bunnies giving you terrible nightmares every Easter, this is a must see.