Where's Donnie?

Jan. 12, 2004, midnight | By Erica Hartmann | 20 years, 1 month ago

Donnie Darko appears every weekend at Visions

Walking into Visions, the bar is pretty full, but the lounge is mostly empty. The theatre, despite the pre-show shorts playing on screen, is also rather vacant.

Donnie Darko has been playing Friday and Saturday nights at Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge since about six months ago, and though the Washington Post gave it a favorable review (November 1, 2003), it remains largely undiscovered. Perhaps this is a tribute to the singularly bizarre nature of the film itself, a growing cult flick that experienced a limited release in 2001.

Truly, Donnie Darko is not for everyone. Set in 1988, it tells the story of the schizophrenic Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his "friend" Frank (James Duval), a bunny scary enough to make even the most diehard animal lover cringe. The idea is vaguely
reminiscent of the 1950 movie Harvey, also about a man with an imaginary 6-foot rabbit friend, and similarly makes a particular statement about mental illness. What that statement is in Donnie Darko depends on who you ask, as does almost everything about the movie.

The plot is so convoluted that it takes several viewings to discern what happens, let alone figure out what the message is. The DVD provides some extra features that, while somewhat difficult to see, clarify the weirder science fiction aspects of the story. Seeing it on a big screen, or at least one bigger than most home television sets, does help in noticing little details, like the jack-o-lantern on the kitchen table. The largesse also makes the fantastically surreal montages even better.

Had the sound system at Visions been functioning properly and if the walls were a little thicker (obtrusive noise from neighboring rooms seeps in during quiet moments), it would have greatly enhanced the movie's score. Highlighted with 80's pop songs by artists such as Tears for Fears and Duran Duran, the music in this film is phenomenal—so great, in fact, that most people were not bothered by the repeated sound glitches.

Contrary to other cult flick showings, the audience for Donnie Darko is quite subdued. Laughing and clapping at appropriate moments is common, but for the most part, the audience sits riveted. Doing anything else is extremely trying given the character of this film. Leaving the theatre, most become philosophical, discussing the movie's theme and intent. What did it mean? How will it be different next time?

Donnie Darko is rated R for language, some drug use and violence and runs 113 minutes. It plays Friday and Saturday nights at midnight. Friday shows are $5 and open to all R-appropriate ages; Saturdays are $10, 21 and over and feature a keg in the theatre.
For more information, see the Visions website or call (202) 667 - 0090.

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