Book Review: The Donnie Darko Book (Richard Kelly)

Book Review: The Donnie Darko Book (Richard Kelly)

The Donnie Darko Book by Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko

A cult classic, Donnie Darko has been on the radar for mostly teens ever since it came out in 2001. I remember watching it roughly 2001 or 2002 on DVD (Director’s Cut), and I remember getting this book soon afterwards from a nearby library book sale (either Hershey’s or Hummelstown’s or Middletown’s), because I was – as a typical high school teen – very intrigued by all the pseudo thought and intellectualism that I thought was in the movie. Similarly Matrix captivated me around that time for how it felt so much deeper than it was.

Rereading it now, as a 38 year old, I feel like I might be due for a re-watch of the movie… but at the same time, the screenplay didn’t exactly fill me with much joy at the idea of it. It vastly feels like it shoots above its mark, and it has that fake ‘deeper than it is’ symbolism we all view a lot of movies with as teenagers. This was an era where I was watching The Matrix, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, Star Wars, and lots of other ‘cult classic’ style movies that felt deeper and darker and more intriguing that I now suspect many aren’t.

GoodReads Blurb

‘Extraordinary . . . Film of the year.’ Sleazenation
‘Magnificently bizarre . . . Wonderful.’ Empire
‘Unlike anything you’ll have seen before . . . Honestly mind-blowing.’ BBC Radio 1
‘Stunning . . . Totally original.’ Time Out
‘Dazzling . . . Demands a second viewing.’ Total Film

The critical and audience response made Donnie Darko the cult film of the year – one whose dark ambiguities caused audiences to go back to the film again and again trying to fathom its mysteries.

This book brings its readers further into the world of Donnie Darko and its creator Richard Kelly. Contained within these pages are an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly who recounts the gestation of the film; the screenplay; photos and drawings from the film and artwork inspired by it.

Donnie Darko will never surrender up all its mysteries, but this book will be an indispensable guide into its intriguing world.

The Donnie Darko Book (by Richard Kelly) – GoodReads

Book Review

In the vast landscape of film companion books, “The Donnie Darko Book” by Richard Kelly, the director and writer of the cult-classic film “Donnie Darko,” stands out as a compelling deep dive into one of the most enigmatic movies of the early 2000s. For fans of the film—a dark, twisting tale of teenage angst interwoven with elements of psychological thriller and science fiction—this book offers an invaluable behind-the-scenes look and enriches the viewing experience with profound insights and intriguing details.

The book is neatly divided into two main sections: the screenplay of the film, and an interview with Richard Kelly conducted by Kevin Conroy Scott. Accompanied by an introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal (who played Donnie Darko), the book not only provides the screenplay but also delves into the complex layers and artistic vision behind the movie’s creation.

Reading the screenplay is an illuminating experience. It gives fans the opportunity to relive the movie in a raw and unfiltered form. Kelly’s writing reveals the intricacies of each scene and dialogue, shedding light on the enigmatic symbols and themes that the film explores. This part of the book is particularly enjoyable for those who seek to understand how the film was crafted from script to screen, including the subtle cues and visual symbolism that might be missed on first viewing.

The interview section is where the book truly shines. Richard Kelly offers extensive insights into his thought process, the challenges he faced during production, and the philosophical underpinnings of the film. His discussions cover a range of topics from the influences of other media and personal experiences that shaped the narrative, to his interpretations of the film’s ambiguous elements. This conversation is not just an interview; it’s an introspective journey into Kelly’s creative mind, revealing how deeply personal and yet universally resonant “Donnie Darko” is.

What is perhaps most striking about “The Donnie Darko Book” is how it addresses the myriad interpretations and theories that have surrounded the film since its release. Kelly discusses these various perspectives without definitively stating one “correct” interpretation, thereby inviting readers to explore their own meanings in the layered storytelling.

The book is also sprinkled with black and white stills from the movie, which add a visual element that complements the textual content. While these images are a nice addition, readers might find themselves wishing for a bit more—a few more behind-the-scenes photos or sketches might have added an extra layer of depth to the visual storytelling.

In summary, “The Donnie Darko Book” is an essential read for fans of the film. It not only enhances the understanding of the movie’s complex narrative and thematic elements but also serves as a testament to the enduring impact of “Donnie Darko” on contemporary cinema. Whether you’re a longtime admirer or a new fan, this book is a fascinating exploration into one of the most compelling cinematic puzzles of our time.

My GoodReads Rating: ***
My LibraryThing Rating: ***

I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating, debating if I wanted to go with a 2 star rating or a 3 star rating, and a 2.5 rating on LibraryThing (where it lets you do halves unlike GoodReads), but decided I would be generous and keep it at 3 stars. My angsty teenage self had left two rating reviews for the book (but no written review) and they were both 2 stars and 3 stars. And interestingly enough, I feel the same way. Wonder why I felt like 2 and 3 stars was what it deserved back then compared to now… perhaps I even had the same thoughts, not quite sure.

Global Average GoodReads Rating: 4.19 (as of 3.21.24)

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