Sunday, April 14, 2013

Writer's Gripe: Donnie Darko

Yes, I am going to gripe about something involving a movie that's like 12 years old. So if you haven't seen it at this point, I really am not going to apologize about spoilers. Behold the run on sentence breaking down this movie for you:

Donnie Darko (if you seriously for some reason haven't seen it or just plumb forgot) is a movie that was made in 2001 about a seriously troubled teen who, after narrowly escaping a freak accident that would have killed him, is then plagued by visions of a man in a freaky bunny suit who convinces him to commit a series of crimes. These crimes uncover some darker things and at first seem to better life for everyone until these actions inadvertently lead to the death of Donnie's recently acquired girlfriend (Gretchen). Then through... magic means or what not (the logic of how all of this is happening isn't quite clear but you have pretty much suspended disbelief enough that at this point, it really doesn't matter), he goes back in time and in a move that The Butterfly Effect would later riff a little on, allows himself to die (in previously mentioned accident) so that none of the actions that followed happened. He never exposes the town pedophile, his girlfriend's mother never would have run off and Gretchen never would have been killed.

So this movie has problems, most do. For starters, it's a bit pretentious and thinks pretty highly of itself, Exhibit A:

Donnie Darko: Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?
Frank (Bunny Man): Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?
 But what I really want to focus on is this extremely tiny detail that drives me absolutely crazy because I'm stupidly obsessed with circular storytelling.

I don't feel every story needs to incorporate this idea but this whole movie is about spiraling in on itself, we end exactly where we began, which is exactly why this is an issue for me.

When Donnie first introduces himself to Gretchen, she remarks, "Donnie Darko? What the hell kind of name is that? It's like some kind of super hero or something..."

And he answers with a cryptic, "What makes you think I'm not?"

It's a charmingly prophetic moment and had some interesting potential.

At the end of the film, Gretchen, having just moved into town and not met Donnie, stumbles on the house and is informed what happened by a fellow neighbor boy. His name is kind of uttered (by neighbor boy) in the exact same kind of inflection and there's this moment where you think Gretchen just might repeat, "It's like some kind of super hero or something" or something that hearkens back to that first moment. Not to mock the name, mind you, but some sort of melancholic, under the breath kind of observation.

But it doesn't...

Instead it goes something like,

"Did you know him?"

And then Gretchen meets Donnie's mother's eyes and they kind of share this moment.

And as silly as it sounds, that moment has always seemed really incomplete without that final tie in.
/random writer gripe.

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