Has a demonic looking 6-foot tall bunny-rabbit name Frank ever told you that the world will end—in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds? Me neither, and that may be a good thing because it happens to Donnie Darko. Donnie is a cynical, highly intelligent, disturbed teenage anti-hero. He is also well-medicated thanks to his hypnotherapist (Katherine Ross). From the beginning of the film, we must wonder if Frank is real or is he part of Donnie’s possible schizophrenia. Either way, what about the end of the world?
The film is a head-scratching, psychological thriller mixed with sci-fi and dark humor. Early into the story, we hear Frank summon the sleepwalking Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) outside where he sees the giant rabbit for the first time. The next morning Donnie wakes up on the green of a golf course. When he returns home, he learns that a jet engine crashed through the roof into his bedroom. His older sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) tells him the FAA investigators have no idea of where it came. Frank, whether being real or the manifest of a delusional mind, saved his life.
During the next twenty-eight days, Frank continues to return. He asks Donnie if he believes in time travel. This topic leads Donnie to several discussions with his Catholic school’s science teacher (Noah Wylie). The teacher gives him a book “The Philosophy of Time Travel” written by a former teacher. Soon Donnie’s theories go beyond what a Catholic teacher can discuss while keeping his job
Frank soon begins to convince Donnie to do misdeeds which he completes with a creepy evil grin (I love that grin). Along the way, he meets the new girl, Gretchen (Jena Malone). She seems to understand Donnie, and they begin “going” together. He also deals with a couple of bullies (Seth Rogen, Alex Greenwald) and his parents (Holmes Osbourne, Mary McDonnell). At his private Catholic school, we meet his favorite teacher (Drew Barrymore) and everyone’s nemesis, gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Gran). When Kitty begins teaching “attitude lessons” taken from local motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). Donnie rebels which lead to Kitty saying the best line of the film, “He asked me to forcibly insert the lifeline exercise card into my anus!”
There are so many questions to unravel. I would say more about the plot, but I don’t want to spoil a great film. I don’t want to ruin any “What the Fuck?” moments. However, I will give you a primer for the film. First, read the following chapters from the fictional book “The Philosophy of Time Travel” by clicking here. Then, as you watch Donnie Darko, identify the following five things: the Primary Universe, the Tangent Universe, Living Receiver(s), Manipulated Dead, and the Manipulated Living. I hope you watch it. I hope you figure it out. Enjoy!
Did You Know?
- The film was made in 28 days, paralleling the film.
- It is Seth Rogen’s first film.
- Originally, Donnie was to talk about masturbation while thinking of Alyssa Milano, but for legal reasons, they switched it to Christina Applegate. Milano was only 16 at the time.
- Vince Vaughn turned down the role of Donnie after 4 meetings. He was concerned about playing a 16-year-old. He was 31 at the time
- Jason Schwartzman agreed to play Donnie, but scheduling conflicts made him withdraw.
- The producers received permission from the Smurfs creators to talk about Smurf sex.
- Many writers have written of the beauty of “cellar door”, though Drew Barrymore’s character credits a famous ‘linguist.”
Donnie Darko has an incredible 80s themed soundtrack including the songs: