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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Kelly|
|Produced by||Adam Fields
|Written by||Richard Kelly|
|Music by||Michael Andrews|
|Cinematography||Steven B. Poster|
|Editing by||Sam Bauer
|Distributed by||Pandora Cinema
|Running time||113 minutes (Director's cut 133 minutes)|
Donnie Darko is a 2001 American fantasy and drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone, and Mary McDonnell. The film depicts the adventures of the title character as he seeks the meaning and significance behind his troubling Doomsday-related visions.
Budgeted with $4.5 million and filmed over the course of 28 days, it grossed just over $4.1 million worldwide. Since then, the film has received favorable reviews from critics and has developed a large cult following, resulting in the release of a director's cut on a two-disc special edition in 2004. A spin-off sequel entitled S. Darko was released in 2009, focusing on Samantha, Donnie's younger sister. The sequel was panned by critics.
Plot summary 
On October 2, 1988, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager living in Middlesex, Virginia, is awakened and led outside by a figure in a monstrous rabbit costume, who introduces himself as "Frank" and tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. At dawn, Donnie awakens on a golf course and returns home to find a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. His older sister, Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), informs him the FAA investigators don't know where it came from.
Donnie tells his psychotherapist Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross) about his continuing visits from Frank. Acting under Frank's influence, he floods his school by damaging a water main. He also begins dating new student Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone), who has moved to town with her mother under a new identity to escape her violent stepfather. Conservative gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) blames the flooding on the influence of the short story "The Destructors", assigned by dedicated English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), and begins teaching attitude lessons taken from motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). Donnie rebels against these lessons, leading to friction between Kitty and Donnie's mother Rose (Mary McDonnell).
Donnie asks his science teacher Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff (Noah Wyle) about time travel after Frank brings up the topic, and is given the book The Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta Sparrow (Patience Cleveland), a former science teacher at the school who is now a seemingly senile old woman.
Dr. Thurman tells Donnie's parents that he is detached from reality, and that his visions of Frank are "daylight hallucinations", symptomatic of paranoid schizophrenia. Donnie disrupts a speech being given by Jim Cunningham by insulting him in front of the student body, then burns down Cunningham's house on instructions from Frank. When police find evidence of a child pornography operation in the house's remains, Cunningham is arrested. During a hypnotherapy session, Donnie confesses his crimes to Dr. Thurman and says that Frank will soon kill someone.
Rose agrees to replace Kitty as chaperone for her daughter Samantha's (Daveigh Chase) dance troupe in Los Angeles, so Kitty can testify in Cunningham's defense; with her husband Eddie (Holmes Osborne) in New York on business, her older children are home alone.
Donnie and Elizabeth take the opportunity to throw a Halloween party to celebrate her acceptance to Harvard University. Gretchen arrives, distraught that her mother has disappeared. Realizing that only hours remain before Frank's prophesied end of the world, Donnie takes Gretchen and two friends to seek Roberta Sparrow at her house. They are attacked by two school bullies (Alex Greenwald and Seth Rogen, in his film debut) who are attempting to rob Sparrow's house, and the fight spills into the street. An oncoming car swerves to avoid Sparrow but runs over Gretchen, killing her. The driver is Elizabeth's boyfriend Frank (James Duval), wearing the same rabbit costume as the Frank of Donnie's visions. Donnie shoots him with his father's gun.
As a vortex forms in dark clouds above his house, Donnie drives into the hills and watches as an airplane descends above. The plane, carrying Rose and the dance troupe, is wrenched violently as one of its engines detaches and falls into the vortex. Events of the previous 28 days recapitulate in reverse order and action, until Donnie finds himself in bed on the morning of October 2. The jet engine crashes through his room, killing him. Others with whom Donnie had interacted in the 28 days awaken, some looking disturbed. Gretchen rides by Donnie's house and learns of his death from a neighborhood boy (Scotty Leavenworth), but says she did not know him.
Events occurring outside of the film 
The film website provided additional information regarding the plot and characters from the film. The FAA is stumped to explain the origin of the jet engine which killed Donnie, and discovers its serial number matches that of another plane's engine. This plane was en route from Denver to San Francisco on the night Donnie died, and landed without incident. Jim Cunningham commits suicide on October 11, 1988, on the golf course where he had woken Donnie. Roberta Sparrow dies that Christmas, of natural causes at 101. Kenneth Monnitoff (who is revealed as a former NASA scientist and CIA operative) marries Karen Pomeroy, and has two children. He is killed in 1999, when his car is pushed off the road by a black sedan. His widow donates The Philosophy of Time Travel to the Library of Congress, along with a note implying its information was the reason her husband was killed.
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The Director's Cut of the film and the film's official website relay the contents of The Philosophy of Time Travel, the book by Roberta Sparrow which Donnie receives from Dr. Monnitoff. This information is helpful in understanding the plot.
The Philosophy of Time Travel 
The book explains that rarely and for unknown reasons, the "Fourth Dimension of Time" becomes corrupted and creates a copy of the universe known as a "Tangent Universe". This universe is connected to the "Primary Universe" by a "Tangential Vortex" (a portal made of water) and is a perfect copy of it and all it contains, except it also contains one duplicated metal object known as an "Artifact". A Tangent Universe is unstable and, unless it is properly collapsed, will collapse itself into a black hole after several weeks, destroying the connected Primary Universe with it.
The Tangent Universe is properly collapsed by sending the Artifact through the Tangential Vortex, back to the Primary Universe. This duty falls on one individual, known as the Living Receiver. It is unknown how or why a Living Receiver is chosen. This person acquires "Fourth Dimensional powers", including increased strength, telekinesis, mind control and the ability to conjure fire and water. The Living Receiver is often plagued by disturbing visions and dreams while in the Tangent Universe.
All those in the vicinity of the Vortex become "Manipulated Living" and are unconsciously motivated to assist the Receiver in returning the Artifact, through behaviour that may otherwise seem bizarre to them. The Manipulated Living will do anything to prevent the destruction of the Primary Universe, though they are not consciously aware of the threat.
Those who die within the Tangent Universe become "Manipulated Dead". They are then able to travel through time (using water, the "Fourth Dimensional Construct") to assist the Receiver. The Manipulated Dead enact elaborate plans known as "Ensurance Traps" which, if successful, leave the Receiver no choice but to use his powers to return the Artifact.
After the Artifact is returned, the Tangent Universe ceases to exist. In the Primary Universe, those who were Manipulated are often haunted by the experience in their dreams. Many will remember nothing in waking life. Some will become profoundly regretful of their actions in the Tangent Universe. The Artifact will be held in reverence by those in the Primary Universe, as its appearance defies rational explanation.
Significance to the plot 
Donnie is the Living Receiver. The jet engine that crashes through his house is the Artifact. Gretchen and Frank (as he appears to Donnie) are Manipulated Dead. All other characters in the film (including Frank, as he appears to everyone else) are Manipulated Living. The Tangent Universe is created immediately before Donnie leaves his bed near the beginning of the film. He meets Manipulated Dead Frank, who has travelled back in time to guide Donnie toward returning the Artifact. Manipulated Living Frank drops Elizabeth off at home, shortly before the jet engine falls.
Throughout the film, the Manipulated Living and Dead influence Donnie's actions. All interactions with him are intended to coerce him to return the Artifact and save them from oblivion, though the Living are not consciously aware of why they behave this way.
Frank persuades Donnie to flood the school (using his Fourth Dimensional Power of water conjuration), which allows him to develop a relationship with Gretchen, while walking her home from cancelled classes. Their relationship was sparked by Ms. Pomeroy, who earlier instructed Gretchen to "sit next to the cutest boy" in class.
Frank later instructs Donnie to burn down Cunningham's house (using his Power of fire conjuration), leading firemen to discover his child pornography room, causing Kitty to testify at his trial and Rose to replace her as chaperone for Samantha's talent show, allowing Donnie and Elizabeth to throw a party.
Ms. Pomeroy writes "Cellar Door" on an otherwise empty blackboard in an empty classroom. When Donnie enters and inquires about it, she explains this is considered one of the most beautiful phrases in English.
The foreword of The Philosophy of Time Travel ends with "If I am still alive when the events foretold in these pages occur, then I hope that you will find me before it is too late."
These various actions culminate in Donnie visiting Roberta Sparrow's home (behind a cellar door) with Gretchen, where she and Living Frank are killed. This is the key part of the Ensurance Trap. Donnie, having lost his first love and becoming a wanted murderer, sees no choice but to close the Tangent Universe and return to the Primary.
When the plane carrying his mother and sister crosses over the Tangential Vortex (the disturbance in the clouds over his house), Donnie uses his Power of telekinesis to tear off its engine and guide it into the Vortex. The Tangent Universe collapses, and the story picks up where it left off in the Primary Universe, before the Tangent occurred. Those who were Manipulated awaken with memories of their time in the Tangent Universe; Cunningham cries in remorse over his pedophilia (and commits suicide ten days later), Frank touches his eye where Donnie had shot him and Pomeroy and Monnitoff smile, satisfied at a job well done.
The Darko family moves to California. The Artifact is stored in a warehouse in Washington, D.C., and given the nickname "Engine X" by the public and media, who continue to be fascinated by it three years after it appeared. Conspiracy theories abound and the name "Darko" becomes part of Middlesex legend.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko
- Jena Malone as Gretchen Ross
- Mary McDonnell as Rose Darko
- Holmes Osborne as Eddie Darko
- Katharine Ross as Dr. Lilian Thurman
- Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth Darko
- Daveigh Chase as Sam Darko
- James Duval as Frank Anderson
- Drew Barrymore as Karen Pomeroy
- Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham
- Noah Wyle as Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff
- Beth Grant as Kitty Farmer
- Stuart Stone as Ronald Fisher
- Gary Lundy as Sean Smith
- Alex Greenwald as Seth Devlin
- Seth Rogen as Ricky Danforth
- Patience Cleveland as Roberta Sparrow/"Grandma Death"
- Jolene Purdy as Cherita Chen
- Ashley Tisdale as Kim
- Jerry Trainor as Lanky kid
- David St. James as Bob Garland
- Scotty Leavenworth as David
- Jack Salvatore Jr. as Larry Riesman
In 2003, the piano-driven cover of the Tears for Fears' "Mad World", featured in the film as part of the end sequence was a hit for composer Michael Andrews and singer Gary Jules and became a UK Christmas Number One.
One continuous sequence involving an introduction of Donnie's high school prominently features the song "Head over Heels" by Tears for Fears, Samantha's dance group, "Sparkle Motion", performs with the song "Notorious" by Duran Duran, and "Under the Milky Way" by The Church is played after Donnie and Gretchen emerge from his room during the party. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division also appears in the film diegetically during the party and shots of Donnie and Gretchen upstairs. The version included was released in 1995, although the film is set in 1988. The opening sequence is set to "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen. In the theatrical cut, the song playing during the Halloween party is "Proud to be Loud" by Pantera, a track released on their 1988 album, which would coincide with the time setting of the film. However, the band is credited as "The Dead Green Mummies".
In the re-released Director's cut version of the film, the music in the opening sequence is replaced by "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS; "Under the Milky Way" is moved to the scene of Donnie and Eddie driving home from Donnie's meeting with his therapist; and "The Killing Moon" is played as Gretchen and Donnie return to the party from Donnie's parents' room.
- The Donnie Darko Book, written by Richard Kelly, is a 2003 book about the film. It includes an introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal, the screenplay of the Donnie Darko Director's Cut, an in-depth interview with Kelly, facsimile pages from the Philosophy of Time Travel, photos and drawings from the film, and artwork it inspired.
- NECA released first a six-inch (15 cm) figure of Frank the Bunny and later a foot-tall (30 cm) 'talking' version of the same figure.
Home media 
The film was originally released on VHS and DVD in March 2002. Strong DVD sales led Newmarket Films to release a "Director's Cut" on DVD in 2004. Bob Berney, President of Newmarket Films, described the film as "a runaway hit on DVD," citing United States sales of more than $10 million.
The film was released in the US on Blu-ray on February 10, 2009.
The film was released as a 2-disc Blu-ray special edition in the UK on July 19, 2010 by Metrodome Distribution and featuring both Original and Director's Cut. Also including commentaries from director Kelly and actor Gyllenhaal, Kelly and Kevin Smith, and Cast and Crew including Drew Barrymore.
Director's cut 
The Director's cut of the film was released on May 29, 2004, in Seattle, Washington, at the Seattle International Film Festival and later in New York City and Los Angeles on July 23, 2004. This cut includes twenty minutes of extra footage, an altered soundtrack, and visual effects from the (fictional) book The Philosophy of Time Travel.
The director's cut DVD was released on February 15, 2005 in single- and double-disc versions, the latter being available in a standard DVD case or in a limited edition that also featured a lenticular slipcase, whose central image alternates between Donnie and Frank depending on the viewing angle. Most additional features are exclusive to the two-DVD set: the director's commentary assisted by Kevin Smith, excerpts from the storyboard, a 52-minute production diary, "#1 fan video", a "cult following" video interviewing English fans, and the new director's cut trailer.
The single-DVD edition was also released as a giveaway with copies of the British Sunday Times newspaper on February 19, 2006.
Box office performance 
Donnie Darko had its first screening at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2001, and debuted in United States theaters in October 2001 to a tepid response. Shown on only 58 screens nationwide, the film grossed $110,494 in its opening weekend. This may have been the result of the movie being released shortly after the September 11 attacks. By the time the film closed in United States theaters on April 11, 2002, it had earned just $517,375. It ultimately grossed $4.1 million worldwide.
Despite its poor box office showing, the film began to attract a devoted fan base. It was originally released on VHS and DVD in March 2002. During this time, the Pioneer Theatre in New York City's East Village began midnight screenings of Donnie Darko that continued for 28 consecutive months.
Critical reception 
The film received a largely positive critical response. Rotten Tomatoes gives the theatrical version of the film an 85% rating and the Director's Cut a 91% rating. Metacritic gives the theatrical version of the film a score of 71 out of 100, based on 21 reviews which indicates "Generally favorable reviews" whereas the Director's Cut received a much higher score of 88 out of 100, based on 15 reviews which indicates "Universal acclaim".
Andrew Johnson, writing in Us Weekly, cited it as one of the outstanding films at Sundance in 2001, describing it as "a heady blend of science fiction, spirituality, and teen angst." Jean Oppenheimer of New Times (LA) praised the film, saying, "Like gathering storm clouds, Donnie Darko creates an atmosphere of eerie calm and mounting menace – [and] stands as one of the most exceptional movies of 2001." Writing for ABC Australia, Megan Spencer called the movie, "menacing, dreamy, [and] exciting" and noted that "it could take you to a deeply emotional place lying dormant in your soul." Roger Ebert gave the theatrical version of the film a less than positive review, but later gave a positive review of the director's cut.
Awards and nominations 
- 2001: Richard Kelly won with Donnie Darko for "Best Screenplay" at the Sitges film festival and at the San Diego Film Critics Society. Donnie Darko also won the "Audience Award" for Best Feature at the Sweden Fantastic Film Festival. The film was nominated for "Best Film" at the Catalonian International Film Festival and for the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival.
- 2002: Donnie Darko won the "Special Award" at the Young Filmmakers Showcase at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. The movie also won the "Silver Scream Award" at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival. Kelly was nominated for "Best First Feature" and "Best First Screenplay" with Donnie Darko, as well as Jake Gyllenhaal being nominated for "Best Male Lead," at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film was also nominated for the "Best Breakthrough Film" at the Online Film Critics Society Awards.
- 2003: Jake Gyllenhaal won "Best Actor" and Richard Kelly "Best Original Screenplay" for Donnie Darko at the Chlotrudis Awards, where Kelly was also nominated for "Best Director" and "Best Movie".
- 2005: Donnie Darko ranked in the top five on My Favourite Film, an Australian poll conducted by the ABC.
- 2006: Donnie Darko ranks #9 in FilmFour's 50 Films to See Before You Die.
- Other awards
- #14 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
- #2 in Empire's "50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time" list.
- #53 in Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time 2008 poll.
A 2009 sequel, S. Darko, centers on Sam (Daveigh Chase), Donnie's younger sister. Sam begins to have strange dreams that hint at a major catastrophe. Donnie Darko creator Richard Kelly has stated that he has no involvement in this sequel, as he does not own the rights to the original. Chase and producer Adam Fields are the only creative links between it and the original film. The sequel received extremely negative reviews.
Marcus Stern, associate director of the American Repertory Theater, directed a stage adaptation of Donnie Darko at the Zero Arrow Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall of 2007. It ran from October 27 until November 18, 2007, with opening night fittingly scheduled near Halloween.
An article written by the production drama team stated that the director and production team planned to "embrace the challenge to make the fantastical elements come alive on stage." In 2004, Stern adapted and directed Kelly's screenplay for a graduate student production at the American Repertory Theatre's Institute for Advanced Theatre Training (I.A.T.T./M.X.A.T.).
See also 
- Richard Kelly (director) (2004). Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut (DVD).
- "Donnie Darko". The Numbers. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Deming, Mark. "Donnie Darko (2001)". Allmovie. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Scott Tobias (2008-02-21). "The New Cult Canon: Donnie Darko". The A.V. Club. The Onion.
- Donnie Darko at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Missing plane loses engine", from The Middlesex Times Dispatch (fictional paper)
- "Jim Cunningham found dead",from The Middlesex Times Dispatch (fictional paper)
- Robert Sparrow's obituary, from The Middlesex Times Dispatch (fictional paper)
- "Local Teacher Killed", from The Middlesex Times Dispatch (fictional paper)
- Everything you were afraid to ask about “Donnie Darko”, from Salon.com
- Film review from CinemaBlend.com
- Film review from IGN
- Text of The Philosophy of Time Travel
- "The Mystery of Engine X", from The Middlesex Times Dispatch (fictional paper)
- Snider, Mike (2005-02-14). "'Darko' takes a long, strange trip". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Poster, Steven (Cinematographer) (2004). Donnie Darko Production Diary (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Adam Burnett (2004-07-22). "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut: The Strange Afterlife of an Indie Cult Film". Indie Wire. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "Donnie Darko (2001)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- James Davies. "Blu-ray Review: 'Donnie Darko: 2 Disc Ultimate Edition' (rerelease)". cine-vue.com.
- Donnie Darko at Metacritic
- Us Weekly, 2/21/2001, p. 36.
- Andy Bailey (2001-01-21). "PARK CITY 2001 REVIEW: Donnie Darko Plays with the Time of Our Lives". Indie Wire. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Megan Spencer (2002-10-15). "Donnie Darko: triple j film reviews". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Roger Ebert. "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut". Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "My Favourite Film". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Joanne Oatts (2006-07-03). "C4 relaunches Film4 with '50 films to see before you die' countdown". Brand Republic. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. 2006-09-15.
- "50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time". Retrieved 2012-09-31.
- "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Retrieved 2012-09-31.
- Chris Tilly (2008-05-13). "Arcade Fire Open Box: Richard Kelly on film score and Darko sequel". IGN. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Josh Modell (2009-05-13). "S. Darko". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Sarah Wallace (2007-11-01). "Bringing the End of the World to Life". American Repertory Theatre.
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- Official website
- Donnie Darko at the Internet Movie Database
- Donnie Darko at Rotten Tomatoes
- Donnie Darko at Metacritic
- Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut at Rotten Tomatoes
- Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut at Metacritic
- Donnie Darko at AllRovi
- Donnie Darko at Box Office Mojo
- Dan Kois (2004-07-23). "Everything you were afraid to ask about "Donnie Darko"". Salon.com.