Movie Review

Donnie Darko

Life is one long insane trip. Some people just have better directions.
Donnie Darko Movie Poster

US Release Date: 10-28-2001

Directed by: Richard Kelly


  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Donnie Darko
  • Holmes Osborne
  • Eddie Darko
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Elizabeth Darko
  • Daveigh Chase
  • Samantha Darko
  • Mary McDonnell
  • Mrs. Rose Darko
  • James Duval
  • Frank
  • Patrick Swayze
  • Jim Cunningham
  • Jolene Purdy
  • Cherita Chen
  • David Moreland
  • Principal Cole
  • Noah Wyle
  • Prof. Kenneth Monnitoff
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Karen Pomeroy
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: April 5th, 2006
Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.

This movie marked the feature debut of writer/director Richard Kelly. It represents a fairly remarkable achievement by the then 25-year-old. 5 years after its initial release Donnie Darko has become one of the first genuine cult hits of the new millennium. Like most movies that deal in time travel, however, the resolution and pay-off do not live up to the set-up. Still this is an interesting and entertaining movie, definitely worth checking out by those who haven't yet seen it.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhall) is a suburban teen living with some emotional and/or mental issues. His sleepwalking and depression have led to his seeing a shrink. The movie begins and ends on October 2nd, 1988. That night Donnie is first visited by Frank, he meets him in his front yard. This saves his life because had he been in bed he would have been killed by a plane engine that falls on his house and lands right on Donnie's bed. When the authorities come to investigate the freak accident, Donnie's family learns that no airplane can be located to match the engine. It's as if it fell out of thin air.

Frank is like a demented version of Harvey, the 6-foot-tall invisible rabbit that befriended Jimmy Stewart. At first, only Donnie sees him and he tells Donnie ominous things like the world will end in 28 days.

The mood of the movie is dark and sinister, with a few laughs to offset the feeling of impending doom. Egged on by Frank, Donnie commits a few crimes of vandalism. One at his school and one at the home of a teacher. This guy is an obnoxious self help guru, played by Patrick Swayze. Drew Barrymore plays a young, hip English teacher who gets in trouble for having her students read the Graham Greene short story “The Destructors", about some kids who destroy a house.

Jake Gyllenhall is incredibly charismatic. He is the star of the movie and carries it almost completely on his own. I don't think anyone else could have played the role better. The entire cast is good though and the characters are all fairly interesting.

This movie has the kind of ending that usually makes me either love it or hate it. For some reason I can forgive the seeming plot holes and though I didn't LOVE Donnie Darko I certainly enjoyed it and think it will grow in stature over time.

Reviewed on: March 28th, 2007
Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.

So I just finished watching Donnie Darko and I have not a clue what this movie was supposed to be about. So I listened to the director's commentary on the deleted scenes to hopefully pick up on what the hell he was trying to say. At one point he says that the movie is about "divine intervention." Then later he adds, "I can't explain it. It's open to interpretation. It is the mystery of the entire film." At another point, he says that this line, that was edited from the final film, also describes the movie, "The Children have to save themselves these days because the parents have no clue." If the director has no idea what this movie is about how can the audience?

Donnie Darko mentions God many times but it really is not about religion. One character is pro Dukakis while another is shown as an uptight conservative, but this movie is not about politics. It has a plot device involving time travel, but it is not really science fiction. It centers on a dysfunctional family but this is hardly a family drama. Donnie Darko presents a character who is massively confused about his life. Darko deciding whether his life is predestined or does he have free will is the one and only solid theme the director is able to convey. However, the final resolution is so far out there that the journey to that point is rendered moot.

Donnie Darko is a creative mess!

Reviewed on: April 24th, 2009
Jake Gyllenhaal is Donnie Darko in Donnie Darko.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Donnie Darko in Donnie Darko.

I think the thing about this movie is that it's really not that complicated. What happens is pretty straightforward (if implausible) although it doesn't seem that way at first. It's just the reasons why those things happen that are never explained. It just hints that the reasons are because of god or destiny. It is also told in an overly complicated manner to make it seem more mysterious than it really is.

What did surprise me about this movie is the number of famous people who appear in it. You have both Jake and his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayzee, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Mary McDonnell and even Seth Rogen. Perhaps that is the most impressive thing about this directorial debut and not the pretentious and sometimes contradictory story-telling method. And generally the cast is quite good. Jake does a good job in the lead. The way he plays Donnie you're never sure if the whole thing is reality or a figment of his drug-addled mind.

My favorite thing about this movie has to be the kicking 80s soundtrack. Any movie that features not one, but two Tears for Fears songs and The Church's "Under the Milky Way Tonight" is a soundtrack I can get behind.

This was actually the second time I'd seen this movie and I have to confess I enjoyed it far less this second time. The first time I saw it I spent most of it trying to figure out just what the hell was going on, but this time, knowing what was happening, the movie just didn't hold my interest.

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