Monday, February 25, 2013
"Donnie Darko" (2001) is a very unique cult classic produced by Drew Barrymore that mixes a touch of horror, sci fi, drama and mystery. It's loaded with stars including: Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze, Beth Grant, Seth Rogen, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, Katharine Ross, Holmes Osborne, Daveigh Chase and Mary McDonnell.
The movie takes place in October of 1988, just before the presidential elections. The main characters consist of the Darko family: siblings Donnie (Gyllenhaal), Elizabeth (Gyllenhaal), Samantha (Chase) and parents Rose (McDonnell) & Eddie (Osborne). They are your typical upper middle class family that live in a nice neighborhood and whose children go to private school. Beneath the surface of this family and community though, we see things are never quite so nice and easy.
Donnie is a troubled teenager who in the past has set fires and acted out. He is heavily medicated and visits a psychiatrist weekly. He hears a mysterious voice that tells him to do things and causes him to sleepwalk in the night. It turns out the voice is from a six foot tall bunny named Frank (man in a weird bunny costume) that tells Donnie the world is going to end in 28 days, right around Halloween. As viewers we never quite know if Donnie's delusions are real, imagined or both.
The actors and these characters are simply first rate: Jake Gyllenhaal and his real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal are naturals as bickering but loving siblings. Younger sister Samantha is played by Daveigh Chase, who is in the school's cheer/dance squad "Sparkle Motion!". Mom is played by the always wonderful Mary McDonnell ("Battlestar Galactica", "The Closer", etc). Patrick Swayze plays the local self-help guru who makes it big but hides a very bad secret. Drew Barrymore plays Ms. Pomeroy, the English teacher whose progressive methods don't go over well in the somewhat conservative school. And one of my favorites - the ever quirky Beth Grant plays Kitty Farmer, teacher and Sparkle Motion coach.
This movie is a hodgepodge of genres: sci fi time travel, coming of age high school movie, drama about dysfunctional families, mystery and suspense; that just work together with the set of excellent actors, beautiful cinematography and great 80s music tying it all together. If you want to be entertained and mystified at the same time, watch this movie. You'll discover more each time you watch it and it's always enjoyable to immerse yourself in the strange worlds of Donnie Darko!