Donnie Darko
Bump in the night. Donnie and Gretchen (Gyllenhaal and Malone) are disturbed ...

dir-scr Richard Kelly
with Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Beth Grant, Katharine Ross, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daveigh Chase, James Duval
release US 26.Oct.01; UK 25.Oct.02
01/US 1h52

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E

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An unusually artful teen thriller, this film has a terrific combination of both light and dark touches from start to finish. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled teen in the late 1980s. His parents (McDonnell and Osborne) are at wit's end as to how to help him, his counsellor (Ross) is struggling to cope with what she finds, his new girlfriend (Malone) is just a wee bit perplexed, and his teachers (Barrymore and Wyle) recognise his brilliance. Then a jet engine falls on his house. He's haunted by visions of a giant bunny that tells him to do terrible things. He's obsessed with time travel theory. And everything seems to be coming together ... like a countdown to the end of the world.

First-time writer-director Kelly assembles the story's elements with care and skill, leading us gently through the plot, revealing little details about the characters and events, and layering on a nearly overwhelming sense of foreboding. The special effects work is subtle and restrained, yet visually stunning. And the cast all perform with a raw transparency--it's hard to pick standouts. Gyllenhaal gives yet another sharp, strong performance, and McDonnell is wonderfully stoic and brittle. There's also a wicked current of humour running through, most notably in Grant's fanatical teacher-parent and Swayze's hilarious self-help guru. The offbeat story and quirky characters keep us riveted as hidden things are uncovered and the puzzle pieces start falling into place. And as it examines some serious issues that are profoundly relevant to both teens and adults, the film finds a powerful resonance. It may frustrate viewers who want a more strongly defined plot, but the triumph here is in the details, in the themes the film examines and the characters themselves, how they cope with what they are going through. And what it says about our society.
adult themes, language, drugs cert 15 30.Oct.01 lff

release US 23.Jul.04, UK 27.Aug.04 (for 28 days only, then to DVD) • Newmarket 04/US 2h13
why are you wearing that stupid man suit? It's unusual for a first-time filmmaker to get the chance to make a director's cut, but Richard Kelly's movie struck such a nerve that fans were clamoring for more. And he's certainly given us more! What emerges is a strikingly different film from the original: with a slower pace and a much less enigmatic tone. In other words, this is far more obviously a time travel piece than it was before. This makes the film more accessible to newcomers or those who were baffled by the original version, but it won't necessarily please the original film's fans, because it focusses the film so specifically on one aspect. Perhaps its strongest value is as a companion piece to watch after the original - to clarify some things and give an added dimension. Some additions are unnecessary (new transitional effects shots that inexplicably use computer-screen images), while others are fascinating (deleted or extended scenes that subtly add to the story) and tone-shifting (the time travel book chapter headings and text). The extra length doesn't help much;it wasn't that much shorter before, but now it feels long. None of this makes the film better or worse - just different. And I prefer the original. (15.Jul.04)
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
dark darker darko send your review to Shadows... Girl, net: "Beautiful, fun, eerie and awesome in general." (4.May.02)

Gawain McLachlan, Filmnet, Melbourne: 3.5/5 "Cultish film about a kid who suffers from a life-changing event and then starts seeing a demonic bunny rabbit who encourages him to be anti-social at school. Great soundtrack (Echo & The Bunnymen, etc), interesting script, good acting and direction combine to make an unusual film well worth seeing." (14.Mar.03)

© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall