Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

Richard Kelly

BY Chris GramlichPublished Mar 1, 2005

The nature of great art in any medium is to pose questions, invite discourse and provoke radically different interpretations. It is also seldom recognised as "great" in its time. Unquestionably, Donnie Darko is great, but not flawless, art. An unmitigated box office disaster upon its initial theatrical release (blame it on Sept 11, the poor marketing campaign or the less than accessible content), its DVD/home video release has since spawned a fanatical following (it's number 96 on's top 250) that culminated in The Director's Cut seeing a limited theatrical re-release in 2004 before its arrival on DVD. In the "They Made Me Do It Too — The Cult of Donnie Darko" featurette, the movie's strange appeal is best exemplified, as all asked have a different interpretation of what Donnie Darko is. Is it a sci-fi/superhero time-travelling film? Is it a Christ tale? Is it a love story? Is it a narrative of teenage alienation, nihilism and rebellion? Unquestionably it is all these things, unquestionably it is more and that's what makes it so difficult to define. The comparison of David Lynch directing The Breakfast Club comes up a couple times on the DVD, and it's not without merit. The tale of an alienated, possibly mentally unstable teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal's remarkable breakthrough turn) battling high school, a demonic bunny, time travel and conformity sheds some of its blatant weirdness and ambiguity in Kelly's director's cut, as he inserts about 20 minutes of new footage (much of it in the original DVD's deleted scenes) in an attempt to connect/explain (if only to himself) every minute detail and heighten its superhero/sci-fi nature. Is it better? It's easier to follow. In his commentary with fan/friend/interviewer Kevin Smith, Kelly chooses not to take sides, calling this "his remix version," avoiding words like "definitive." Without a doubt it'll be this commentary with Smith that proves the DVD's most interesting extra to Darko disciples, as with Smith playing interviewer, the duo discuss in detail basically every plot thread and nuance, and even do a fan Q&A. However, with the exception of the hopefully intentional mocking but still entertaining "#1 Fan: A Darkomentary," the features aren't terribly impressive. Still, like any great work, even after countless viewings there's still much to discover with Donnie Darko, obviously more so with its new edition. Plus: production diary, more. (Fox)

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