Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko ★★★★★

"Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?"
"Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"

So goddamn relieved that this is still phenomenal. I saw this for the first time at the perfect age that you should watch a film with a name like Donnie Darko for the first time. I was about thirteen years old, I watched it based on a recommendation from a friend in high school, and I loved it to pieces. It's sort of like "baby's first existential crisis film", but I mean that in an endearing way. Conversations revolving around this movie seem to tend to sway towards "Is this movie deep or just indie bullshit pretentiousness?" My personal feelings in regards to whether or not Donnie Darko is "deep" land on "I guess, but it doesn't matter." I try to avoid calling movies "deep" because it can seem reductive to a work, plus it's a term that has a lot of baggage around it when it comes to film and art analysis as a whole. Things are "deep" for different people at different ages depending on their life experiences and exposure to different media and ideas. Something that's "deep" when you're a little lad can become cliche when you're an adult. So, instead of just sticking with "deep", I'll expand my reach with calling Donnie Darko one of the most compelling indie films ever made, and it's often labeled that for very good reasons. The soundtrack is fantastic, the needle drops being just as good. It looks great to this day, where even the sporadic special effects have weight now. (The wall effect in particular I think is so good.) Jake as Donnie is one of those inevitable "Wow, he's literally me." characters for cinephile teenagers, but that can detract from how good he is as the character, where I would label Donnie as an "anti-hero" in the way that he's kind of objectively an asshole while still retaining a fair amount of audience sympathy from beginning to end. Him, his parents, and the teachers, this is what we call "good and layered writing." Can I talk about Richard Kelly for a quick second? What the fuck did we do when we just decided that he wouldn't make a movie at least every two years after this came out? What a complete failure of the Hollywood system. I was kind of shocked by how much connective tissue I found this had with Southland Tales. Both movies fuck around with Americana apocalyptic worries with time travel and spirituality. (One can also easily make the case about both also being neo-Christ analogies.) The best thing that happened with this viewing in particular, done with CCCC, was that whenever those shots would come with the super close-up of the eye, the stream would buffer. Every. Single. Time. It did not buffer anywhere else, but you bet your sweet ass when it kept coming back to that fucking eye, the spinning circle would be centered right in Donnie's eye. It started out as really funny for me and my friend, but as it kept happening, gotta say, with the whole weird physics stuff going on in the film itself, it got pretty damn creepy. (My friend said after our viewing was over that he may need to go to church tomorrow after the shit with the eye, and I must say I don't blame him.) As a last note before trying to digest this somber, masterful work of original, contemplative cinema, it's weird but cool as hell watching this as a twenty-two year old and being able to look at Frank and say "I know that face." James Duval, king of film.


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