Author Topic: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)  (Read 3179 times)

Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« on: August 19, 2020, 07:50:12 PM »
It's one of those "so underrated it's overrated or is it?" films, isn't it?

I absolutely found it at the right time in my life, being a 13-14 year old film nerd who was just getting into more "out there" stuff. It had 80's nostalgia, teen angst, galaxy-brained science chatter, surreal horror and Patrick Swayze. I thought it was ace, and I was the only one among my peers who'd seen it, which for all intents and purposes made me the only person in the entire world who'd seen it and "got it". Must've watched it 15-20 times. Then I got the Director's Cut and got well into that too, although even back then it sort of ruined a lot of what made the theatrical version good by overexplaining its frankly convoluted premise, and I even prefer the music choices that were changed for copyright reasons.

I wore it out though and didn't watch it again until sometime recently, when I realised my wife had never seen it. She liked it overall, but I'm not sure if it's held up well. On the one hand, if an indie film like that were to come out now it'd be something of a revelation, as it's still remarkably inventive and confident for a debut feature by someone in their 20s, with a good grasp on genre, some great performances etc. On the other hand, it's almost impossible for me not to cringe at it now - maybe because a lot of the stuff I thought was "cool" back then just seems lame and try-hard now, but also because I think it demonstrates a lack of good judgement in some instances. The plot, which had previously seemed very clever and compenetly-drafted, came off like utter bollocks this time round, with some entire scenes and sequences making absolutely no sense. Judging by Kelly's subsequent output (especially The Box, which I think is one of the most laughably awful films ever made), I'm probably not wrong. Also, I didn't realise Seth Rogen was in it until that rewatch, that's an instant penalty.

I have no idea what the general consensus here has been, and I'm not even sure if it's especially well-regarded by anyone anymore. No one talks about it, but there were a few years in the 2000s where it was seen as something of a masterpiece. I don't think it is that, but it's certainly an interesting one. I still love most of the scenes with Frank, and Beth Grant is note-perfect in her typecast role as the Karen-like mom. "Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!" is one of the funniest deliveries of a line in anything, I reckon.

What do you all think?

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2020, 08:10:51 PM »
Shit.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2020, 08:12:30 PM »
Hate it. Mainly for the lead actor. Awful face. Simpering cunt.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2020, 08:16:06 PM »
Fond memories and I watched it again the other night for the first time in fifteen years, by coincidence. Fantastic soundtrack and some quite powerful cinematography. I think the dialogue and acting are variable, and what seemed like a clever plot is actually quite obtuse and simply not communicated well in the film. While I thought it was cool to explain stuff with DVD extras at the time, now I think that's a lose-lose approach. You take away the audience interpretation and ask them to basically check a wiki for the correct explanation.

Some marvellous scenes though, and it's still got its own unique feel.

PlanktonSideburns

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2020, 08:28:52 PM »
great teen film

that is to say a film for cretins, but great none the less

love southland tales tho - its like watching danny lambo give matthew richard kelly the keys to said lambo, only for him to jump in, and instantly reverse it into a ravine, inexplicitly turning into a fireball halfway down

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2020, 08:33:54 PM »
While I thought it was cool to explain stuff with DVD extras at the time, now I think that's a lose-lose approach. You take away the audience interpretation and ask them to basically check a wiki for the correct explanation.

Yes, I agree. Back then, it felt like I'd "earned" the understanding by caring enough to look it up after the fact, but that's not really how a film with an A-B plot should work, is it? There's a great discrepancy between deliberate, considered ambiguity and just not getting your plot across effectively in cinematic language. It's why I have problems with films like Prometheus (where the writer eventually admitted that fan theories were better than anything he actually put into the film) or It Follows (where the filmmaker basically admitted that even he didn't really know what "It" represented) - someone somewhere should be in total control of what the story is and how that needs to be communicated.

I think David Lynch has a great grasp on this, and is able to make films with bits which seem completely "random" or "mental", but have a very carefully-crafted and consistent internal logic, which is discernible from simply watching the film and thinking (not that it isn't fun to look up other theories as well). With Donnie Darko, especially the Director's Cut, it feels simultaneously like Kelly's trying desperately to explain the plot step-by-step, but without having filmed/written the actual material necessary to present it.

Shit Good Nose

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2020, 08:36:26 PM »
As I've mentioned on here before, I got the American DVD when it came out, back at the tail-end of the days when there was still a huge gap between US and UK releases and the American DVD would be released before it even got to the cinema here (also cf. The Blair Witch Project), so I saw it for what it was long before the hype machine kicked in.   I thought, and still think, it was a bit of something and nothing that was fine for one watch but that was enough.  It is, latterly, an incredibly overrated film in my opinion (also cf. The Blair Witch Project again).

What I will say is I've had the director's cut on DVD for what feels like nearly as long, but I've never watched it.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2020, 08:39:38 PM »
Well I won't have a bad word said about The Blair Witch Project. Out.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2020, 08:45:16 PM »
Never saw the Director's Cut, but knowing that he switched out "The Killing Moon" for a fucking INXS song in it taught me not to trust any moves this dude makes, ever.

Sebastian Cobb

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2020, 08:50:16 PM »
Hate it. Mainly for the lead actor. Awful face. Simpering cunt.

The Sparklemotion smartprice Nadine Hurley is worse, an insult to one of Lynch's weakest characters.

imitationleather

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2020, 08:52:34 PM »
Back in the day I had to pretend to like this film so girls might want to smooch me.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2020, 08:54:53 PM »
Back in the day I had to pretend to like this film so girls might want to smooch me.
Got off lucky, couple of years later and it'd've been Garden State

BlodwynPig

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2020, 08:57:47 PM »
As I've mentioned on here before, I got the American DVD when it came out, back at the tail-end of the days when there was still a huge gap between US and UK releases and the American DVD would be released before it even got to the cinema here (also cf. The Blair Witch Project), so I saw it for what it was long before the hype machine kicked in.   I thought, and still think, it was a bit of something and nothing that was fine for one watch but that was enough.  It is, latterly, an incredibly overrated film in my opinion (also cf. The Blair Witch Project again).

What I will say is I've had the director's cut on DVD for what feels like nearly as long, but I've never watched it.

I've just kicked you out of the Honorary Minotaur Lifetime Member's Club

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2020, 09:08:56 PM »
Never saw the Director's Cut, but knowing that he switched out "The Killing Moon" for a fucking INXS song in it taught me not to trust any moves this dude makes, ever.

The INXS song was in the script for that scene, he just couldn't get the rights. I agree, though, it's far less good.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2020, 09:25:09 PM »
I saw this at the Curzon Soho when it came out and the audience clapped as the credits rolled, which is a rare event in London, and then I immediately headed to an internet cafe to write a review and post it on the site I was running at the time because I loved it so much.

Inevitably I watched it a few years later and thought it average at best. :(

I love Southland Tales however, it's a mess but an adorable one. That said, I've only seen it the once as I didn't want to risk a repeat of the above.

Well I won't have a bad word said about The Blair Witch Project. Out.

It's in my top 3 worst ever films, filled with horrendous characters making ridiculously stupid decisions and the least scary ending to a film ever.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2020, 09:29:49 PM »
It's in my top 3 worst ever films, filled with horrendous characters making ridiculously stupid decisions and the least scary ending to a film ever.

OUT.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2020, 09:30:57 PM »
I will NOT have this thread become a Blair Witch Project hatefest. I'd rather speak to the supervisor and have the thread deleted and my fee refunded.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2020, 09:32:16 PM »
Don't think i've ever had to pretend to like a pretentious film to get some sex. I suppose that reflects badly on the calibre of women I get. Pond life.

Don't think I could maintain an erection knowing i'm lying about liking Garden State though.

Shit Good Nose

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2020, 09:35:23 PM »
The best thing about Blair Witch is the genuinely funny and interesting directors' commentary and the faux documentary, which I find a MUCH more effectively creepy watch than the film will ever be.  Completely agree with SMBH.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2020, 09:37:58 PM »
I enjoyed it a lot, but don't have much interest in seeing it again. I wonder if, perhaps, there's a reaction against it from people who discovered it in their teens and are vaguely embarrassed at their initial strong reaction? Maybe not, but it's strange, given how popular and beloved I recall it being on release, to now struggle to find an unequivocal positive review of it.

(see also: The Blair Witch Project, which is perhaps why it's getting mentioned at the same time)

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2020, 10:21:26 PM »
I enjoyed it a lot, but don't have much interest in seeing it again. I wonder if, perhaps, there's a reaction against it from people who discovered it in their teens and are vaguely embarrassed at their initial strong reaction? Maybe not, but it's strange, given how popular and beloved I recall it being on release, to now struggle to find an unequivocal positive review of it.

That's definitely a part of it for me, as I mentioned. When I watched it back recently, I noticed a lot of the same tendencies I was developing in my own writing at the time as a result of admiring it, which just made me cringe in hindsight.

I think Requiem For A Dream may fall into the same category for some.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2020, 10:34:18 PM »
Requiem for a Dream is fucking hilarious, I'd love to go back to 2005 and laugh at teenage me thinking it was powerful stuff.

Loved the Blair Witch Project when I was 12 and it was in the midst of its huge backlash, watched it a couple of years ago and still loved it. Great idea, executed really well and with some very underrated performances from a cast that were very game. Lightning in a bottle.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2020, 11:04:06 PM »
Yeah, I don't think TBWP fits at all. It's not a galaxy-brain film, just one that got a lot of hype (while film hype was still properly influential) and had great promotion, and was then quickly mocked and disregarded once it came out on video because it wasn't as outright "horrifying" as they expected and "nothing really happens". It's effective in a very sinister way which I think has been barely matched since, personally.

Something like Donnie Darko found its audience on home video and was never really sold as anything other than a weird, cerebral indie sci-fi kind of movie. Horror, and comedy for that matter, tend to get a much harder time because they ostensibly exist to do two things: make you scream or make you laugh, and if they don't then they're SHIT and no two ways about it.

touchingcloth

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2020, 11:32:17 PM »
It's one of those "so underrated it's overrated or is it?" films, isn't it?

I absolutely found it at the right time in my life, being a 13-14 year old film nerd who was just getting into more "out there" stuff. It had 80's nostalgia, teen angst, galaxy-brained science chatter, surreal horror and Patrick Swayze. I thought it was ace, and I was the only one among my peers who'd seen it, which for all intents and purposes made me the only person in the entire world who'd seen it and "got it". Must've watched it 15-20 times. Then I got the Director's Cut and got well into that too, although even back then it sort of ruined a lot of what made the theatrical version good by overexplaining its frankly convoluted premise, and I even prefer the music choices that were changed for copyright reasons.

I wore it out though and didn't watch it again until sometime recently, when I realised my wife had never seen it. She liked it overall, but I'm not sure if it's held up well. On the one hand, if an indie film like that were to come out now it'd be something of a revelation, as it's still remarkably inventive and confident for a debut feature by someone in their 20s, with a good grasp on genre, some great performances etc. On the other hand, it's almost impossible for me not to cringe at it now - maybe because a lot of the stuff I thought was "cool" back then just seems lame and try-hard now, but also because I think it demonstrates a lack of good judgement in some instances. The plot, which had previously seemed very clever and compenetly-drafted, came off like utter bollocks this time round, with some entire scenes and sequences making absolutely no sense. Judging by Kelly's subsequent output (especially The Box, which I think is one of the most laughably awful films ever made), I'm probably not wrong. Also, I didn't realise Seth Rogen was in it until that rewatch, that's an instant penalty.

I have no idea what the general consensus here has been, and I'm not even sure if it's especially well-regarded by anyone anymore. No one talks about it, but there were a few years in the 2000s where it was seen as something of a masterpiece. I don't think it is that, but it's certainly an interesting one. I still love most of the scenes with Frank, and Beth Grant is note-perfect in her typecast role as the Karen-like mom. "Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!" is one of the funniest deliveries of a line in anything, I reckon.

What do you all think?

Your story is very similar to mine. I found it aged 15 ish when I was getting “into” cinema, by which I mean Tarantino, the Godfather, the Three Colours trilogy. A pretentious little fart, in other words.

I LOVED it at the time. In hindsight the fact that the plot makes no sense was flattering to me as someone who had the time and inclination to watch the DVD extras and, mainly, that insane Flash website they had made for it. I stroked my chin and imagined that there was some kind of subtext that only, like you allude to, the people bold enough to delve into the Darko apocrypha could comprehend.

I watched it when it appeared on Netflix, and I was fucking horrified at just how bad it was. If I had first seen it aged 30 there’s not a chance I would have any fondness for it. To pick the other side of a Swayze-headed supernatural coin, I only recently saw Ghost for the first time, and it’s kind of fine. Not great, but unlike Darko not a total turd.

I’ve revisited a few other films I was obsessed with at the same age as Darko, and I think the only one which has held up is City of God.

Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2020, 11:41:01 PM »
I’ve revisited a few other films I was obsessed with at the same age as Darko, and I think the only one which has held up is City of God.

Yes, that was the time. It was City of God, Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and then Donnie Darko was the American entry. I think you're right, though, all the others hold up pretty well last I checked.

touchingcloth

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #25 on: August 20, 2020, 12:16:51 AM »
Yes, that was the time. It was City of God, Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and then Donnie Darko was the American entry. I think you're right, though, all the others hold up pretty well last I checked.

Darko and Amores were common ones among my peer group, and Three Colours was one I read about online probably. I’ve watched it since and not enjoyed it, but I can realise that that’s because of the way I watch films rather than a problem with the films themselves. Darko it’s definitely just a shite film which could only ever appeal to a teenage boy. Perhaps the best example of a film which appeals to that demographic and no others - I know adult women who love Tarantino films, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone older than their teens who enjoy Darko.

Annie Labuntur

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #26 on: August 20, 2020, 12:38:44 AM »
Always preferred Donnie Dorbo myself, especially the chair monologues.

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Thomas

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #27 on: August 20, 2020, 10:11:21 AM »
I think I saw this once. Not sure. Abiding memory is a sense of trying to turn up the TV's brightness beyond 100.

Mainly wanted to pop into this thread to voice my support for The Blair Witch Project.

Sebastian Cobb

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #28 on: August 20, 2020, 10:35:28 AM »
Darko and Amores were common ones among my peer group, and Three Colours was one I read about online probably. I’ve watched it since and not enjoyed it, but I can realise that that’s because of the way I watch films rather than a problem with the films themselves. Darko it’s definitely just a shite film which could only ever appeal to a teenage boy. Perhaps the best example of a film which appeals to that demographic and no others - I know adult women who love Tarantino films, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone older than their teens who enjoy Darko.

It's not restricted to teenagers, it's a stupid person's idea of a clever film, so does catch a lot of teenagers. Like The Matrix.

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Re: Donnie Darko: Good or Shit? (A Retrospective)
« Reply #29 on: August 20, 2020, 10:38:38 AM »
It's not restricted to teenagers, it's a stupid person's idea of a clever film

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