Friday, August 20, 2004
Been waiting for the new Director's Cut of Donnie Darko for quite awhile, and we were lucky enough to see the Boston preview a couple days back. It's not often that one of your favorite films gets a reworking so quickly, so we were all over it.
(note: If you've never seen the film, there's spoily bits ahead. And, uh, shame on you. If you plan on seeing the director's cut, read ahead at your own slightly spoiled risk.)
Donnie Darko's additional twenty-or-so minutes come from a bunch of different places: added scenes, new effects, even on-screen pages from Grandma Death's time travel manual that serve as transitions, and go a long ways towards helping to understand exactly what's going on. Not that it lays it all out for you... there's still some serious ambiguity involved. Thing is, I may have liked it left more open... although my original thoughts were pretty close to what director Richard Kelly had in mind, I think. Hard to say. I'd still love to sit down, buy the guy a beer, and grill him for awhile.
The most immediate, jarring, and disappointing change, at least for me: In the opening scene, when Donnie/Jake gets up off the ground and hops on his bike, there's no more Echo & the Bunnymen! Yes, they yanked The Killing Moon, the song that first pulled me into the film and promised something special ahead. It's been replaced with Never Tear Us Apart by INXS, not a terrible song, but not one that I have any real connection with.
Interviews explain that originally Kelly tried to use the INXS song, but couldn't afford the rights. An increased studio bank balance meant he could fulfill his wish in the new cut, but I'm slightly bummed. If you're a fellow Echo fan, you're better off knowing this ahead of time, so it's absence doesn't crush your little heart. Have no fear, though... it's still there during the Halloween party action, along with Joy Division's distinctly non-celebratory Love Will Tear Us Apart. "Hey everyone, it's Joy Division... let's daaaaance!"
While I can understand why some of the extra scenes were left out of the original (in order to cut it below a studio-dictated two hours), most help out in adding depth to the Darkos. We get more of Donnie's dad, mom, and sister (and more Maggie Gyllenhaal is never a bad thing), plus extra scenes with his shrink (The Graduate's little Robinson, Katharine Ross) and english teacher (Drew Barrymore, who helped make the pic possible as a producer). We also get a bit more time with Donnie's girlfriend, played by Jena Malone, adding more meaning to their relationship and it's eventual fate.
I especially liked the debate that arises over Watership Down... new scenes show Barrymore's character teaching the book in class, and showing a clip from the animated film to them as well. It's one of my favorite books (and where my cat Hazel got her name, actually), so it's appearance was a nice surprise (plus, hey, bunnies!). Also inserted is the obligatory 80s arcade scene, during which Donnie plays Outrun, foreshadowing the painful path of Frank's red car. There's lots more, but I'll leave the listing to the obsessive completists.
So it remains a great film in this new form. Throw The Killing Moon back in there, and I'd call it an even better one.
For more on the Director's Cut, and Kelly's next project, Southland Tales (with a crazy cast that includes Tim Blake Nelson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott and some normal, two-named people like Jason Lee, Ali Larter, Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, and Kevin Smith) here are some links...
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
recent posts on the 'nac...
on the nightstand
boston-area music bloggers
boston music media