Donnie Darko review by The Grim Ringler

Donnie Darko

Oh Donnie, oh Donnie, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. This, in all honesty, is one of my favorite films of all time. And the funny thing is I never really had much of a yen to see it. Fool!

Donnie is an average boy, in every way you can ever be average. He has friends, but isn’t terribly popular. He is cute but not terribly handsome. He has an average family of two parents and two siblings. He couldn’t get any more ‘All American’. Which of course means that beneath the average exterior lurks an ocean of psychological trouble, the masthead being schizophrenia. So Donnie has his pills, and his therapist. And his family has a deep-seated fear of what the boy the used to know is becoming.

And then one night Donnie is awakened by a voice calling to him, telling him to come closer. And thus enters Frank, a man-sized rabbit with the face of a skull and the voice of a hypno-therapist.

Frank warns Donnie that the end is coming, that on a certain day, and at a certain time, the world will end. And Donnie will play a part in either its salvation or its destruction, only time will tell which.

What Donnie doesn’t know is 1. is Frank real 2. or is he just crazy? And if Frank is somehow real…how much of what he says is true?

And literally, that is all you should know going in. To say too much more is to really ruin what is a tremendous job of acting, writing, and direction the likes of which are rarely seen.

This is the film we all really want to see, that we hope to see, and which, when we see it, make us remember why we love movies. It is the rare movie which kicks you on your ass and you love it because it does. It is Hitchcock meets science fiction.

The acting in the film is superb as everyone plays their part with a great deal of dread and almost nervousness, as if they sense the doom that Donnie is living but they can’t quite place what it is or why it involves them. And it is this doom that everyone portrays that begins to affect the viewer as well, drawing you deeper into Donnie’s ever-darkening world. Because as we get to know Donnie, and see what he is about, and begin to care about him and his family and everyone else he encounters, we too begin to dread what the truth of Frank is, and almost want to scream at the screen for him to stop and go back and forget what he’s heard.

But Donnie is a prophet, and as such, there is no turning back. I really want to get into this movie and discuss it but alas, this is a review, and not a dissertation on how kick-ass this movie is.


The direction is flawless. He keeps everything at an ever increasing pace, pushing things forward but not at the expense of the characters. And the story is always the first priority.

The acting, again, is flawless. Jake Gyllenhall makes Donnie a living, breathing person, and for that you will love and hate him. And the supporting cast are superb, perhaps topped by Patrick Swayze as a self-help guru that seems to be more than meets the eye.

As for extras, the film is presented widescreen and is gorgeous as such and manages to maintain a cinematic quality, even on the small screen. The disc features several deleted scenes, most which flesh out moments or characters a touch more, a video for the end title song (a Tears for Fears cover), an art gallery of promo art, and the best part – two commentaries - One from the director and Gyllenhall, and the other from Drew Barrymore (who produced and championed the movie, god love her) and the rest of the cast. And believe me, you will need the commentary of the director. This is a very complex, very strange movie and you probably won’t get it the first time – even if you did guess who Verbal Kint really was, you smart bastard you – but that is not a bad thing. For upon listening to the commentary you finally will fit the pieces of the puzzle of the movie together and it will make that much more effective to you. The second commentary is a fun and rambunctious love-fest for Barrymore and the rest of the cast, but it does show, if nothing else, how much in love these people were with this film.

And I can hardly blame them.

It is rare for a movie to completely pull you into its world to the point you almost drown in it, but those films are out there, and when we manage to find them they make the drowning all the more wonderful.

Donnie Darko is a very smart, well acted, well made, passionate film, unlike what we have become accustomed to and tt is also one of the best un-science-fiction films you are bound to see.

Don't you deserve to see a good movie? Yes, yes you do.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

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