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Donnie Darko

Entry updated 14 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2001). Newmarket in association with Pandora presents a Flower Films production. Written and directed by Richard Kelly. Cast includes Drew Barrymore, Daveigh Chase, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze and Noah Wyle. Original cut 113 minutes; 2004 Director's Cut 129 minutes. Colour.

A gifted teenage psychotic escapes a Fortean death when a jet engine falls out of nowhere into his bedroom, and he comes to suspect that this and other bizarre ruptures in reality are accounted for by a local eccentric's forgotten monograph on Time Travel; it transpires that the engine fell through time from the collapse of an unstable and short-lived bubble universe created from the Jonbar Point of his own death.

Widely admired but a commercial disappointment on its initial release, Kelly's debut feature became an enduring cult hit in midnight screenings, on DVD, and on its belated UK theatrical release. The sf elements, though adventurous and conceptually sophisticated, are comparatively incidental to the film's considerable strengths, which include a winning central study in teen alienation, consistently sharp and quotable dialogue, a very strong ensemble cast, deft multiple plotlines, a memorable soundtrack of period hits (the film is set in 1988) which went on to produce a UK Christmas chart-topping single, and a central enigma sufficiently obliquely presented to seem more mysterious than it really is. Kelly's exegetic commentary and extras on the DVD release, and the "director's cut" released in 2004 which folded some of this material back into the text of the film, disambiguated much of the mystery, not least with excerpts from the time-travel book; the loss of inexplicitness was not universally welcomed and many have preferred the original uncommented cut, but the revised version is the more overtly and satisfyingly science-fictional text, and at the very least demonstrates the fundamental coherence and intelligence underlying the original film's mysteries. A poorly received DVD sequel about Chase's character, S. Darko (2009), was made without Kelly's involvement or endorsement. [NL]


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