Donnie Darko (2001)
Miss Mayhem here. While Miss Murder convalesces, she asked if I would pick a movie that looked interesting, watch it, and take her notes and combine them with my notes for a review. I picked her duo of movies that, although 11 years apart, are both about disturbed teenagers supposedly living in Virginia, although both movies were shot in California. They have other similarities too, but the first is a cult classic and the second was just plain bizarre.
I told her about my choice and she asked if I was sure about that, because these two movies are very, very strange and putting them together would be a project. Well, I've been taking it easy so far, and wanted a challenge. I asked her if she wanted this to be where we both put our opinions down, but she said just watch the movies, make your own notes, take my notes, and do whatever you feel. So here goes.
Donnie Darko (2001): Donnie Darko was made in 2001 but set in the year 1988 so we have lots of 80's music interspersed into the movie - I liked it, but others might find it irritating. It's about a teenager in an atypical type family who is trying to find himself, but events make that just about impossible.
This is a very, very strange movie and didn't do well when it first came out as these type of movies typically go, but now, as I said, it's a cult classic. Who doesn't remember Jake Gyllenhaal walking around with a six-foot bunny named Frank, as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on around him.
The first part of the movie is kind of off-putting, as they show his family life. His younger and older sisters (older played by his real sister Maggie) and he bicker at the table, using words that would have made me grounded for life. In the movie however, the parents just kind of giggle at it. That's just not right. Donnie has a problem. He sleepwalks, a lot. He has disturbing thoughts. He does disturbing things. They don't know why, he just does.
One night a human sized bunny named Frank appears to him, telling him to follow him out into the streets. He tells Donnie the world is ending and gives him the exact date and time. Now this film was finished and released the month after 9/11 which might be part of the reason it didn't do so well at first. We all were a bit raw, and music, books and movies released after that date took on a new significance we didn't always like.
Donnie wakes up on a golf course, not having any freaking idea of how he got there. When he gets home, he discovers that moments after Frank had led him out of the house, an engine from a jet had fallen into their house, crushing his room. If he had been there asleep, he'd be dead. The FAA is trying to figure out where it came from, but there were no flights missing engines and so they're baffled.
I'm going to pause here and tell you about some of the outstanding people who appear in this movie, sometimes out of the blue, sometimes as ancillary characters. Besides Jake and his sister Maggie, we have Katharine Ross, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, and Noah Wyle. With such an outstanding cast, it is strange that the movie did not pick up the audience that they were expecting. However, now that time has gone by, it seems that this movie is being acknowledged as the original and smart piece of cinema that it is.
Back to the story. Donnie comes home to find his family relieved that he is alive. But Frank the bunny is not done with him yet. He now wants Donnie to flood the school. This causes certain ones of the school board to believe that the students need better motivational skills (?!?) and they hire this douche named Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) whose main goal seems to be, not to help people, but to sell videos.
I'd like to mention that my partner put in her notes that it took her four different tries to get through this movie. Not because it was bad, but because it was so freaking confusing. Watching the movie, looking over her notes, the movie reviews, and the wiki, I think I figured out what the problem was. Now this is my opinion of course, so take it with a grain of salt.
I believe this film was a genius piece of ideology that would have been a great book but they tried to explain and apply it to a movie script, but it just didn't translate well on the big screen. After all, this movie is taking the ideas of time travel, schizophrenia, precognition, and several other theories and trying to mash them together into one story. That's way way too much work.
Now, there is a book, The Donnie Darko Book, written by Richard Kelly, that kind of explores the film. It contains the screenplay, interviews, pages about the philosophy of time travel, and the photos and artwork it inspired. If you really want to understand the concepts, theories, and other related subjects about this movie, this might be the way to go. Otherwise, you may find yourself watching this movie, as we did, more than once just to get the gist of what's going on.
Back to the movie. Things start getting weirder and weirder for Donnie. Not only does Frank constantly appear to him now, but he is seeing things he shouldn't be seeing, and doing things he shouldn't be doing, mostly at the insistence of Frank. There's even a scene where Jake, his sister, and Frank, are watching The Evil Dead. So what's wrong with that?
Well, other than the fact that they're the only ones in the theater, Jake's sister falls asleep. If you've seen the original The Evil Dead even once, you know that there's something really, really wrong with the fact that his sister is asleep. And why is she even there? She can't see Frank. We're not gonna find the answer to that, the movie just raises more questions.
Donnie starts to think about time travel. Apparently Frank has put the idea into his head. He asks his science teacher (Noah Wyle) who gives him a book on the subject, written by a seemingly senile old lady who lives in his town. Donnie is desperately trying to reconcile what the hell is going on with his life and why he is seeing things others can't see (like Frank), and doing things he knows he shouldn't be doing. His next act is to set fire to the home of the douche motivational speaker Jim (Swayze), and while the firemen are putting out the fire, they find a ton of child pornography. Jim is subsequently arrested. So it seems, at least at first, that Donnie is doing the town a lot of good. He's not doing himself any good, however. He's starting to freak the hell out.
While Donnie's parents are gone on a plane trip to L.A (where this movie was actually filmed), he does the typical teenage thing and throws a party. This is a Halloween party, which means everyone is in costume. At this time, Donnie, knowing that only hours are left before the end of the world, seeks out a woman named Roberta Sparrow, who apparently had written a book on time travel. On the way, however, Donnie's girlfriend, Elizabeth, is hit by a car and killed. The driver of the car is her ex-boyfriend Frank, dressed in the same rabbit costume. Donnie, who for some reason is carrying around his father's gun, shoots him.
Things are beginning to whirl around him as his life spirals out of control. There is a strange storm brewing, which Donnie associates with the world ending. The plane carrying his parents and sister, suddenly shakes and begins to crash. Donnie realizes now that somehow all these events - seeing things he's not supposed to see and doing things he's not supposed to do - is some kind of time warp, if you will, and that things are actually all related to that fateful night his bedroom was destroyed.
He confronts Frank, pulls off his mask, and sees Elizabeth's ex-boyfriend, blood on his face from the gunshot. Now Donnie knows what he needs to do to make things right. Now, I'm not going to tell you that I understand this because I had no freaking idea what point they were trying to make, but this is how it went.
A vortex is seen in the storm above. One of the engines from the plane that Donnie's parents are on comes apart, and it plunges into this vortex. The past 28 days that this movie supposedly covers begins to run in reverse. No, I do not know why. However, everything reverts back to the night that the jet engine crashed into Donnie's room. This time, Donnie is in his room and is therefore killed.
People that had seen and talked to him during those 28 days are confused and dazed, but they honestly do not remember Donnie at all. And that's where our story ends. Seriously. That's the end.
Excision (2012): I must confess I got ten minutes into this movie, stopped it, and called Miss Murder. "Umm, do I have the right movie to go in this two-fer review? This is really..."
She said, "I thought it was interesting that eleven years apart they made movies about disturbed teenagers that live surreal lives and both were supposed to be from Virginia but both films were made in California. Now this one isn't a cult classic but it does have quite a cast and the subject matter..."
I kind of tuned her out. She won't mind me saying that, she knows she sometimes rambles, especially when she doesn't feel well. Where Donnie Darko was a troubled boy who kept seeing strange visions, this is about a girl named Pauline (well played by AnnaLynne McCord) with an obvious personality disorder who is, umm, in love with blood. Lots and lots of blood. No she's not like a vampire or anything, she just likes blood. Like Donnie Darko, Excision has a surprisingly good cast. Among those are Malcolm McDowell (a personal favorite of mine), Marlee Matlin, Traci Lords, John Waters, and other familiar faces.
This film just might gain cult status, it premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has done fairly well so far. Despite the seemingly barbarous subject matter, this film is similar to Donnie Darko in that it revolves around the life of a disturbed adolescent with twisted consequences.
I'm not going to go into this movie at great length, not because it was so bloody, but simply because it was kind of a one-joke movie (no, I'm not saying that it was funny, just that after the initial shock the rest of the movie was almost unnecessary). Pauline has a younger sister named Grace, who she adores, which is strange for someone who really doesn't care about anybody at all. Grace has cystic fibrosis and Pauline dreams of the day when she can become a doctor and help her sister out.
In the meantime, however, she is completely obsessed with blood. She has vivid dreams about the stuff which is sexually exciting to her. In this very twisted film, we get to see Pauline kind of slide into a deeper well of psychosis and we also see her fascination with blood and guts increase to the point where she is now cutting apart animals.
This movie does not end well. That would be pretty much impossible. Although she loves her sister, that love does not help Grace in the slightest. Imagining herself to be trained well enough as a doctor to help her sister, she drugs Grace, shaves her head, and proceeds to do a lung transplant in the garage, using the lungs of a healthy girl she has kidnapped and tied up. The movie ends, thankfully, as the mother walks into the garage and sees what Pauline has done and screams. Pauline looks at her mother, looks at her sister, and begins to cry.
And I really don't have anything more to say about that.
❦❦❦ Miss Mayhem ❦ ❦ ❦