Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko ★★★★½

I really underappreciated this. I liked it on a first watch, but this rewatch just showed me how brilliant it actually is. It's not only just a "cool" film. It's a work of art by visionary director Richard Kelly.

Yes, it's pretentious, but is there an actually valid criticism against it? Because each time the word "pretentious" is used, there has to be an explanation on why said pretentiousness didn't work, or else is just an empty word that says more about the flaws of the reviewer than those of the film. Because, most of the times "pretentious" is an excuse to avoid providing reasons when a critic doesn't like a passionate work. It shuts conversations instead of opening debate.

Something I stated the first time I watched Donnie Darko was that it was poorly shot. But I was full of shit, because despite the budget issues, not only is it gorgeous in its own twisted way, but it manages to perfectly capture both the 80's (where the film is set) and the early naughts. It seems to be all inside a time of its own, which is so gratifying as it is on par with its themes. Also, Richard Kelly is a very smart director (too bad I haven't watched any other of his films, as I've been putting them off for their off-putting reviews). One stand-out of the film is a tracking shot that follows students through the school. It establishes the location perfectly and gives the audience some archetypical characteristics of some of the characters. to know them better. It's not used gratitiously, but rather to advance the narrative.

Many people on the Internet and such have commented on how weird and hard to follow this cult film is, but I don't get it. Sure, the ending is a head-scratcher, but the narrative is pretty damn clear. Unlike other dream-like films, Kelly makes sure we know what's happening. The weirdness never gets in the way of telling a clear story.

And it's a pretty swell film. Kelly understands what being misunderstood in a time where you are begging for attention feels like. And it's a pretty great film about the destructiveness of mental illness, and how it doesn't just affect you but your perception of others, and how it makes you feel worthless and a pain in the ass for your loved ones. As "the dreams of which I'm dying are the best I've ever had" line in Mad World makes it clear, the ending is more of a fantasy than a nightmare compared to the rest of the film.

If Scream used horror tropes to make a hilarious high school film, Donnie Darko uses high school movie tropes to make a great horror nightmare. The characters are nothing we haven't watched in other indie films, but they goddamn work. It is also worth mentioning Donnie Darko is better to get in the mood of October than most horror films.

And I was *almost* forgetting the obvious: Jake Gyllenhaal is the fucking best.

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