Donnie Darko (2001) - Directed by: Richard Kelly
Writer: Mikey B
It’s time for another edition of MikeyB’s Movie Night! Two weeks ago we looked at The Dead Zone which dealt with the question: "If you knew something terrible was going to happen, what would you do to prevent it?" This week’s film deals with the same question, though in a different way. Johnny in The Dead Zone could see people's future with just a touch, but this week's hero, Donnie, has discovered how to travel through time. Their gifts may be different, but the ends to which they use them are very similar.
Donnie is an extremely bright but slightly troubled teenager who attends a strict private high school while seeing a therapist, and he just wants to have the life of a normal teenager. He is prone to sleep walking around town in the middle of the night and just recently started having visions of a man in a bunny suit named Frank who tells him the world will end in 28 days. The morning after a particularly strange vision from Frank he returns home to find that a jet aircraft engine has crashed through the roof of his house landing directly in his bedroom. If Frank had not lured him away he would have surely died. Even stranger though is the fact that no airline can seem to claim the engine as all of their aircraft are present and accounted for. Later in the week as his father drives him to his therapy session they almost run down a senile old woman nicknamed Grandma Death who once wrote a book on time travel but now spends her days walking back and forth across the street to check her mail box for a letter that never arrives. As Donnie helps her across the road she whispers something in his ear that unnerves him: Every living creature on Earth dies alone. What comes next in Donnie's life will change him forever in ways he and the viewer could never imagine. I can’t give away much more of the plot without ruining the film, so you’ll have to watch it yourself.
Directed and written by Richard Kelly as his film making debut, this might be one of the best science fiction tales of all time. The writing is superb with every actor turning in fantastic and believable performances. Jake Gyllenhaal’s protrial of Donnie is perfect, and he is surrounded by an amazing cast of supporting actors with Drew Barrymore giving one of the best performances of her career. If you have yet to see this film, find yourself a copy ASAP! You are missing out on one of the rare breeds of modern film that is equal parts enjoyable and original.
Fun Facts from IMDB for Donnie Darko -
Richard Kelly said that the movie had a very difficult time finding a US distributor. Since the film embodied a myriad of genres and tones, distributors were confused by the movie's message, and how to market it. Additionally, Kelly also claims that "Darko" was very close to premiering on the Starz network until Newmarket Films picked up the film for theatrical distribution.
In the theater scene, Richard Kelly originally intended to have Donnie and Gretchen going to see C.H.U.D. (1984). However, there were problems with finding out who owned the rights to the movie. Finally, Sam Raimi came to the rescue by allowing Kelly to use and distort footage from The Evil Dead (1981), free of charge. This scene was filmed at The Aero Theatre at 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA. The Aero closed in 2003 but re-opened in early 2005.
Well out of his teens, Vince Vaughn reportedly turned down the part of Donnie due to his age. Mark Wahlberg was interested in the part, but apparently was only willing to play the part with a lisp. Jason Schwartzman was also strongly considered for Donnie, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Tim Robbins was the first choice for the role of Eddie Darko.