Before Richard Kelly’s film Donnie Darko I was not the kind of person who could make a statement such as “blank is my favorite movie’. This kind of declaration seemed absurd and dramatic to me, similar to saying ‘blank is my favorite band’. I simply like too much stuff – and whether it’s music or movies, there are times when certain things carry more weight in my mind and emotions than others. I can be in love with David Lynch’s films for a month or two, then John Carpenter swings up and takes that top spot for a while, then the Cohen’s… you get the picture. But after Donnie Darko was released I changed that tune. It immediately became and has remained my favorite film of all time.
Now sure, I still love A LOT of flicks – The Shining, Prince of Darkness, Big Trouble in Little China, Fight Club, The Burbs, etc. etc. etc. Somehow though DD gave me something more than any thing else. And yet I learned that my relationship with Darko was not a put-down for any other films. It has always seemed as though Mr. Kelly’s narrative about sleep-walking adolescents, harbinger rabbits and time travel presented me with something that I had always been looking for, yet had never been aware of needing.
Sooooo… about a year ago when I first heard there was a sequel in the works I got pissed. Especially because (thank god!) Kelly had nothing to do with it. This forthcoming sequel, although able to cast Daveigh Chase in her original role as Donnie’s little sister (now grown up) Samantha, still mad me angry. Angry in that stupid, ‘how dare they’ fanboy style that we all criticize in others but succumb to ourselves when a film or comic we hold dear falls under the crosshairs of bad studio decisionery*.
Flash forward, or back now, to last week and the imminent release date for S. Darko (subtitled ‘A Donnie Darko Tale because apparently if this makes even the littlest bit of money the studio will do another one, perhaps following the fat guy in the red jogging suit who spies on Gretchen and Donnie and then later shows up outside the Darko house party). I worked late Monday, came home and re-watched Donnie for the first time in probably close to four years in preparation for what I knew was the inevitable renting the following day. Inevitable because even though I had a problem with S. Darko existing I had to know for myself. Contrary, I know, but reality often is when applied to humans.
I was a bit altered while I watched Donnie and a little nervous to boot – what if I was in a different place now and the film didn’t quite hold up? What if I’d been wrong all along?**
Well, I’m happy to report that Donnie Darko still packs the same punch for me. First Richard Kelly, as also evidenced in SOUTHLAND TALES, has a masterful knack for marrying filmed narrative to popular music. Nowhere is this more clear than in the scene in DD where we meet most of the major players in the story, all set time-lapsed to Tears for Fears HEAD OVER HEELS. This scene, to me, is the perfect scene and easily my favorite moment in this or any other film.
Seriously, it makes me fucking tear, okay? Kelly is obviously the kind of filmmaker who still believes film can be beautiful at the same time as being frightening or forebodding and this is where that ideal is the clearest. And of course it is from this scene that the narrative really gets underway and we ride along with a young boy whose Universe is about to collapse.
I don’t know if it’s because I read obsessively about Quantum Mechanics, or if Kelly just has a knack for capturing that ‘this is really happening to a bunch of kids‘ adventure that evokes my childhood playtime as influenced by the movies of the day like the Goonies and Karate Kid, but the film just… okay, I’ll stop felating it now and just say it is perfect, beautiful and will always be special to me.
And that is why I chickened out of S. Darko. I did go rent it the next day, and it sat on the entertainment center for about five days while my hectic schedule whirled me by without a moment to spare, all the while looking forward in a frightened way to finally viewing it. Then finally the other night I threw it on, watched ten minutes of it nervously and then sat up, turned it off and drove it back to the video store. It wasn’t that the first ten minutes were bad – they were nothing but set up and I don’t have an opinion either way. But I finally realized that I cannot jeopardize the first film by even considering this one.
Sorry Daveigh Chase, no offense. But please, to whoever has the rights and is probably watching the first week sales on this DVD plotting Frank: The College Years*** – let sleeping rabbits lie.
* No this word does not really exist. Neither did the words Nelly Furtardo until someone made them up and now she hurts my ears. I ‘coin’ this term and promise it will not make bad music!
** See, this is why when people act like fanboys they get their asses kicked. If only Todd Kulus or some other jock from high school could show up now and pummel me back out of this hyper-sensitive goobledegook!
*** Co-Starring Sinbad!