Film Fridays is a project initiated by Sarah and I. After doing a daily music challenge for a month last year we talked about doing something similar for movies. The current global lockdowns give us the perfect excuse to start. Many of us are confined to home with only the TV for company so we thought we would start ‘Film Fridays’ so that we can talk about our favourite movies and hopefully give our readers some ideas for things to watch. If you join us please tag filmfriday and link back to one or both of us so we can read your own contributions!
We would be delighted if you would join us! We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in out hearts, and any personal memories they evoke.
Sarah and I have shared our lists and decided to tackle them as written – but in my case I have diverged from this plan according to my mood.
‘Donnie Darko’ (2001)
The trailer is on youtube:
During lockdown I noticed this wonderful version of ‘Mad World’ by Curt Smith (of original performers Tears for fears), with his daughter Diva, had gone viral:
Another movie that, unfortunately, reflects my mood at the time of writing!
The film opens with troubled teenager Donnie Being drawn from his home by a voice whilst sleepwalking. He meets a mysterious figure in a bunny costume who warns him that the world will end in 28 days time. Donnie awakes lying in a road and goes home to discover that he has cheated death by being out when a jet engine crashes through the roof over his bedroom.. An engine with no known source – there were no planes overhead at the time.
Donnie’s world increasingly unravels as his visions continue and ‘Frank’ – the figure in the bunny costume, who only Donnie can see – goads him into committing several crimes and ultimately they lead to tragedy. At the end of the 28 days Donnie sees an opportunity to put right all the tragedies that have occurred to people he loves during the last few weeks…
I have a funny relationship with this movie. It escaped me on release ( it barely got any publicity as it was released just a few weeks after Sept 11th 2001 – not a good time for a movie with a plane crash in it….).
In around 2003 I was gifted this DVD by friends who had known me since I was Donnie’s age and who thought it was ‘perfect for me’. No comment. Anyway, they did not know that I was very mentally unwell at that time with generalised anxiety amongst other things. I took one look at the blurb on the back of the DVD, with its talk of the world ending, and decided it was staying in the wrapper. Which it did, for 3 years. In 2006 I started guitar lessons and my tutor started teaching me the song ‘Mad World’ – as featured in ‘Donnie Darko’. He was stunned I had not seen the movie so I decided to watch it at last – and instantly loved it.
That song is just one of the great things about the film. Others are the sly dark humour which my friends knew was perfect for me, and the performances. The plot itself is both clever and original, with a take on time travel and alternate timelines that was quite fresh.
Star Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic in the final role and has gone on to be a major star as has his real life sister Maggie, who plays his fictional sister here. His new girlfriend Gretchen is played wonderfully by Jena Malone.
My favourite character and performance has to be Drew Barrymore playing liberal and idealistic teacher Karen Pomeroy. Only a small role but my heart really went out to her in her frustrating battles against the conservatism of the school, and especially busybody gym teacher Kitty Farmer. I honestly do not think Barrymore has bettered this role or performance.
Probably the other big star names, albeit in supporting roles, are Patrick Swayze, playing a sleazy motivational speaker who Kitty idolises, and Katharine Ross playing Dr Thurman – Donnie’s therapist.
The film grips in the same way that an ‘unputdownable’ novel does. An example – my wife had never seen it as it was definitely not her cup of tea. Until one evening we watched a very grown-up Jake Gyllenhaal in another movie. So I put the first scene of Donnie Darko on as she was curious to see what he had been like as a youngster. She ended up hooked by the first scene and watched the whole movie.
Then that ending.. It wraps things up cleverly but still leaves you wondering how! Donnie’s final laugh as he realises what has to happen is wonderful in his appreciation of the irony.
Some geeky notes:
- The film was shot over 28 days – the same timeline as the story
- Tough the movie underperformed at the box office, the Michael Andrews/Gary Jules cover of ‘Mad World’ (originally by Tears for Fears), topped the UK singles chart for 3 weeks.
- Jake Gyllenhaal has said even he does not fully understand the film but the confusing nature of the film, and the discussion it generates, is perfectly OK.
- Drew Barrymore and her production company released the movie in theatres after it looked in danger of going straight-to-video