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That's right ladies and gentlemen, I do remember the original intention of this column. I realize I have a queue of several movies for which I have yet to write my full reviews, but I'll get to that... When I'm not ripping apart commercials and otherwise amusing myself. Today, we have a summarized look at one of the strangest movies I've ever seen, Donnie Darko.
Donnie Darko is like The Boondock Saints to me, in several ways. My great friend Shawnie showed it to me years ago, and we had that unique "you've never heard of this movie" kinda thing going on with it. Several years later, apparel for both of them started appearing in Hot Topic and everyone knew who it was, and I remember thinking "when the hell did this get popular?" Although now that I'm a bit older, looking back on this movie, there remains one pertinent question that never truly gets answered.
"What the fuck is going on here?"
As I say that, keep in mind that I am not talking about the Director's Cut. That version of this movie should've been the one released, because while it is still confusing and trippy, it clears up half the things this movie just leaves out there for anyone's interpretation. The problem is, when you have a movie that leaves things open to interpretation, some of it actually has to make sense in order to form an opinion of said interpretation. Don't believe me? Let's take a brief look at what happens.
For those of you who haven't seen this movie, please understand that I am honestly not making this up for comedic value. This kid named Donnie Darko grows up in the late 80s in Virginia, and a plane engine hits his house. Where did the plane engine come from? A time travel portal that Donnie finds at the end of the movie. Why does he find it at the end of the movie? Everything in this movie attempts to build up to that. Confused yet? Get ready for this.
A plane engine falls into his bedro0m, but he's not there. He's on a golf course talking to a guy dressed up like a bunny. Why is he dressed like a bunny? Because he wears it as a costume later in the movie when Donnie shoots him in the face. How does he become a time-traveling demon bunny that no one else can see? How the fuck should I know?
Anyway, the bunny tells him the world will end in 28 days. So what does Donnie do to prevent this? Sticks up for a Chinese girl who says "chut up" and nothing else throughout the movie (but does some weird interpretive dance at the talent show), although she does run away and stare a few awkward times. What's her purpose in the movie? For Donnie's idiot friend to tell her to "go back to China, bitch." Classy.
Donnie also floods the school by breaking a water mane. What does this do? Gets his teacher in trouble for having the class read a book by Graham Greene. For the kids reading this, it's the late 80s so Stephanie Meyer books weren't available yet. But I hope this helps you realize that other books did (and do) in fact exist outside of that series. Why does this get his teacher in trouble? Cause Varon Bon Thundercunt thinks it's pornography. Get used to that, she hates everything that isn't Jesus or forcing little girls to hold back puke while they dance to Duran Duran. Oh yeah, and a pedophile motivational speaker.
Don't think this is just about him, for Donnie has a sister, played by Jake Gyllenhaal's real sister Maggie. They have a younger sister named Samantha, who asks the immortal question of the movie: "what's a fuckass." Her other purpose? Lead dancer of Sparkle Motion. What's Sparkle Motion? Five preteens who dance well enough at a talent show that Starsearch has them fly to LA with her mother. Why does her mother go? Because Varon Bon can't go because she has to go to the trial of the pedophile motivational speaker, because he can do no wrong. It's always nice when even finding a kiddie porn dungeon is some giant conspiracy.
Donnie also gets a girlfriend. A new girl in school names herself Gretchen Ross to get away from her abusive father. What's her real name? Don't know. How does Donnie meet her? Generic McThug and Seth Rogen allow her to walk home with Donnie while Generico makes faces at him. Does Generico get back at him? Yes, and not just with his ridiculous goatee that would make even Jeff Hardy ask if he was tripping when he trimmed it. He attacks him in the men's room, but not really. But they listened to their first day conversation, and asks in a classroom if her dad stabbed her mom, because these are movie bullies and at least in this movie Seth Rogen was intentionally unfunny.
Donnie asks Gretchen out after a fifteen minute conversation. She accepts, because hot girls with fake names always fall for that trick. They do typical teenage things, like have random guys in jogging suits interrupt their chances for a first kiss. When do they have a first kiss? When Seth Rogen asks if her dad stabbed her mom. Nothing says "I love you, honey" like making out after being humiliated in front of the entire class while Noah Wyle plays it cool.
Drew Barrymore is also their main teacher. She's the one who does evil things like make children read books. She gets fired. Why? Principal Lacka Inflection tells her that she has failed. Why has she failed? We don't know. Varon Bon's influence, I suppose.
And of course, Patrick Swayze plays a motivational speaker who is also a pedophile. How do we discover this? Because Donnie attends a Q&A and tears him apart, which of course means that the motivational speaker has to be stopped. Attributing it to the whole "world ending" thing, he burns his house down, and they find a kiddie porn dungeon. This is the days before the internet, so I can only assume that the assorted pictures and videos were conveniently fireproofed in case of spaztastic boys seeing killer bunnies committed arson.
Frank, the talking Bunny, talks to him throughout the movie. From a mirror, next to him in the movie theater, he just loves to appear randomly to spout cryptic things. Unfortunately, none of those things involve him being the oldest son of Randy Quaid in Independence Day. He has a bullet in his eye, because later in the movie Donnie shoots him in the face, and as I said, his spirit in full costume comes back from the dead and in time to have conversations with him. Are you following any of this? Good, no one else watching it is either.
Donnie also has a therapist, who hypnotizes him and makes him cry. She thinks that more medication is the answer. That'll make the demon death bunny from the future go away! But yes, the 28th day, a party because their parents are out of town. Things go awry and Donnie goes to some old lady's house who wrote a book on time travel. Donnie sees spears coming out of people's chest, which is their pre-destiny or something. Roberta Sparrow describes this, and her character is detailed as an old lady constantly checking her mailbox several times a minute, segued in a scene talking about Smurf-fucking.
Sparrow reads his letter while Generic McThug and Seth Rogen beat up Donnie and Gretchen, who are inside Roberta's cellar as well for some reason, and that broils the pantyhose on their faces. A car comes from out of nowhere, and Gretchen gets thrown under it. Frank blames them for being in the middle of the road, and Donnie shoots him in the face. He carries her body away and goes up to a mountaintop. A conversation they had previously about going back and fixing things plays in his head, and the movie plays in reverse. Donnie laughs, and then stays in his room this time as the jet engine crushes him.
We receive a montage of every character in the movie, 28 days earlier. None of them know what happened because Donnie went back in time, but they look like they all did. Frank is no longer a bunny and just touches his face, and Mr. Pedophilia wakes up in tears. Some random kid talks to Gretchen, who didn't know him now, but makes some weird eye-contact with Donnie's mom and waves, and the movie's over.
I will say this; the soundtrack is a tremendous blend of 80s classics such as "Under the Milky Way Tonight", 80s covers as Gary Jules makes an eerie pian0 version of Tears for Fears' "Mad World (with lyrics that dark, that's how the song should've sounded!), and mostly piano score from Michael Andrews. The dark, melancholy score provides an amazing backdrop of this strange and twisted movie, and even though it doesn't make sense, when "Mad World" plays over the montage of everyone not being dead anymore and knowing something just happened, it is very emotional.
The movie as a whole is interesting. It holds your attention the whole way through, despite making nearly zero sense. Some of the conversations between Donnie and his friends are rather amusing, and the veteran actors Barrymore, Swayze, and Wyle add some legitimacy to the scenes. This movie became a cult hit, but quite seriously, no one knows what the fuck is about. Truthfully though, that's part of the fun. It's a unique picture, and you get something new out of it every time. It's worth watching, and if you can explain it better than I can, be my guest.
But if you think I was making any of that up, watch it yourself or ask someone who's seen it. I felt ridiculous just trying to describe it, and there's a lot I couldn't get to in this review. If you don't, well... I seriously doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.