Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko ★★½


Third viewing, and I think it's now safe to say that I just don't connect with Kelly's (to my mind) fundamentally adolescent mindset. Certainly this film makes zero sense on a narrative level*, which is a problem for those of us who demand dotted i's and crossed t's in even the wooliest speculative fiction. Even if I let that stuff go, though, the whole teenage messianic vibe just doesn't speak to me, as I never felt that sort of exhausting, destabilizing self-importance. The movie might conceivably have worked better for me had it committed more firmly to the It's a Miserable Life conceit, with Donnie witnessing how everyone around him suffers as a result of his continued existence on the planet; even the 1988 setting is perfect for alternate-future-as-Morrissey-lyric. As is, though, there's too little emotional ballast coming from Donnie (Gyllenhaal has become a terrific actor, but he leans very hard here on a generic Evil Grin) and way too many easy-layup "satirical" tangents (Swayze's entire presence, including a visible boom mic in one of his promotional videos, yuk yuk; the teacher who responds to a question about Graham Greene with a haughty remark about Bonanza, etc.). I can't even enjoy the '80s needle drops the way most people do, because I know the songs intimately and wince every time Kelly edits them to fit his complex camera movements (especially painful w/r/t/ "Head Over Heels," which jumps from the first verse into the second verse and then back to the first verse, repeating a line, all apparently just so that "I'm lost in admiration" accompanies the principal or somebody shaking Swayze's hand). Also, are we meant to feel outraged that Barrymore's "cool" teacher gets canned for having assigned her class "The Destructors"? Because she should have been fired much earlier, for inflicting mass trauma by telling Gretchen "Sit next to the boy you think is the cutest."

* Please do not cite the director's cut or use phrases like "manipulated dead" in rebuttal, as I do not wish to sustain a hernia from excessive laughter.

[YEARS LATER: Comments locked, as fans of this movie like to be verbally abusive for some reason.]

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