Video Vault: Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko
2001 – Richard Kelly
Rated R: 113 minutes
Vault Rating: 7

Someone … I can’t remember who … once said to me: “Did you ever see ‘Donnie Darko?”

I hadn’t.

“Dude, you have to see ‘Donnie Darko.'”

Made in the year 2001 by writer/director Richard Kelly, it took six years before I managed to get around to this movie. Vault lives at once far ahead and far behind the curve, just like the hero in today’s film.

Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a high school teen coming of age in a Prozac nation. We cannot decide if he is delusional because of or in spite of his mood-altering prescription drugs. In a very serious way, Donnie has a lot to say about his generation of kids … his generation of detached, over-stimulated kids.

Hell, any movie that begins with a dinner conversation where an upper middle class girl informs her father that she’s voting for Dukakis and ends with a kid sister asking her mother the meaning of the various and creative curse words she’s heard has Vault’s support right from jump.

But we were talking about Donnie. Donnie receives visits from this weirdly evil bipedal rabbit. The rabbit — hearkening both to “Alice in Wonderland” and “Harvey” all at once — informs Donnie that the world is going to end in a matter of weeks. He / it leads Donnie to different places around town in the night and that’s a good thing because on one such trip, a jet engine mysteriously falls through the roof of Donnie’s house, smack through his bedroom.

Having saved our hero’s life, this sick and twisted bunny puts bad ideas in Donnie’s head. Donnie begins committing crimes that result in unusually good outcomes.

By this point in our movie, the film has left the town of dementia and driven to the city limits of science fiction. I mean, once a demonic bunny saves one’s life … well … who can say what naturally comes next.

Indeed, D.D. has a modern “Twilight Zone” feel to it. Darko is a hero to us and his story is inventive and cool without having to over-think it.

It’s a good deal of fun and gets a little into metaphysical time-travel possibilities and I’m sure that the plot points all work out. Still, I’m not sure I want to look that deeply into the fun-house mirror. I just want to stand there for a couple of minutes jumping up and down as my head changes shape.

I guess I’m not describing this movie very well. Let us just agree that — in time — we come to grips with Donnie’s dark delusions. They are, I think, a means to uncovering the ugly and beautiful truths of a sometimes misguided modern world.

The script casts about crazily, discussing on life and death, God, love and fear, time, and even a frank discussion on the sexual predilections of Smurfette, which, I think, a certain generation had questions about.

In all, we do get an avenue toward a dignified world view even though that world is due to come crashing to a close any minute now.

“Donnie Darko” might not be available in your local video store in DVD although there is a new DVD director’s cut. Vault is not sure how much we get out of these director’s cuts. But there might be a crusty old VHS copy lying around. If you should find a copy on some dark and dusty back shelf, pick it up and take a fun-house spin around Donnie’s dark world.


“Double date? Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes in a movie with his girl, Gretchen (Jena Malone), and his imaginary friend, a demonic bunny who fills his head with very bad ideas. Today’s feature, ‘Donnie Darko,’ is well on its way to cult classic status.”

Just a reminder here that our friend Levi Abrino’s short film, “The Lonely Bliss of the Cannonball Luke,” is available as a free rental at Adventure and Silverscreen stores in Philipsburg and Clearfield respectively, and at Uptown Videos & More on State Street in Curwensville. Abrino shot the film with a crew from New York in and around Clearfield and Curwensville in the summer of 2005 and the film is now hitting the independent short film circuit. The movie also features one of our favorite young soccer players from Philipsburg, Katelyn Rosselli, who cuts a wonderful turn as a young girl negotiating the waters between her single mom and a suitor who doesn’t have the most secure day job. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.


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