Midnight Movies at 7: Screening of the Director's Cut of Donnie Darko (2001,2004)
The apocalyptic film, which ironically featured an airplane disaster, had a dreadful gross of a little over $500,000 by its close in April 2002, while in comparison the perceived 2001 ‘flops’ Monkeybone and Town & Country at least grossed $7 million and $10 million, respectively. Thankfully, the DVD and VHS releases gave the film new life and critical acclaim began to surface after midnight screenings of the film at New York City’s Pioneer Theatre, where it ran for over two straight years. Some critics even attribute that run as the launching pad for the film’s cult status, which spread to other theaters across the country.
Drew Barrymore, who plays a new school teacher in the film, was the executive producer and really the strength behind getting the film even made. The script was going nowhere around Hollywood and if it had never reached Barrymore, it would never have been made. Oddly enough, the film put Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal on the map and even introduced future High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale and non-Freaks and Geeks viewers to Seth Rogen. However, it also showcased Patrick Swayze in a completely new and much darker role, something for which many actors welcome after being typecast for portions of their careers.
So we know what you are asking yourself: ‘Really? A film about a large bunny coercing a teenager’? Although it sounds like Harvey meets The Shining, screenwriter and director Richard Kelly claims to have never seen the Jimmy Stewart 1950 Harvey film that also featured a character conversing with an oversized rabbit. Instead, the rabbits from Richard Adams’ classic children’s book Watership Down were the influence for Frank, the rabbit who torments Donnie Darko in the film. Frank appears to Donnie just before a jet engine crashes into his bedroom to declare the end of the world in 28 days. Soon after, Donnie begins committing crimes under Frank’s influence.
But the film’s appearance and overall plot leads to many questions. The countdown to the apocalypse; the comparisons between Donnie and, of all people, Jesus Christ; the time travel element; allegations of mental illness; and that six foot tall figure in a rabbit costume, essentially opens the movie up to all sorts of explanations, symbolism and interpretations. Richard Kelly even admitted once that his film probably needed Cliffs Notes in order to help explain everything (and sort of does through Dan Kois’ Salon magazine article.) In the end star Jake Gyllenhaal sums things up when people come up to him asking about the movie with: “What is Donnie Darko about?... I have no idea, what does it mean to you?”
This film is being shown as part of an occasional series entitled “Midnight Moves at 7” (showing cult and B-movies traditionally shown at Midnight Movie houses).
Light refreshments will be served.
This program was made possible thanks to funding from the Friends of the Library.