In 2002 my sister worked at a local Blockbuster and had the luxury of renting movies several weeks before their release dates. One week, she brought home Donnie Darko, which she had read about some time before but never had a chance to see in theaters. (It made just $500,000 during its original run.) I knew nothing about it other than the fact that it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, whom I adored for reasons I hadn’t yet understood, and was, to put it lightly, obsessed with it after a single viewing.
I bought Donnie Darko on a blue plastic VHS tape and watched it repeatedly. I told my friends to watch Donnie Darko and discussed its eerie and sort of moving story about outcasts and love and time travel incessantly with those who shared my obsession. I frequented its cryptic website in an attempt to “get” the whole thing. I took pride in the fact that I saw it before everyone else. (Blockbuster privilege!) I bought the soundtrack from a Borders and had to wait DAYS for it to be delivered to the store. I listened to Gary Jules’s cover of “Mad World” while driving around in my hideous car and thinking things like, “Damn.” Or, perhaps, “Life.” If you asked what my favorite movies were in 2003, I’d say, “Magnolia and Donnie Darko.” I’m sorry. (No I’m not.)
While I was in college, Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut was released. I remember getting a large group of friends together to watch it at Austin’s teeny tiny Dobie Theater. I knew it would be better than the original—that it would be more stunning and brilliant in every way. Unfortunately, it was neither. Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut is bloated and overconfident, with far too much superfluous footage (not to mention jarringly different music cues). The revisions director Richard Kelly was forced to make before releasing the theatrical cut forced him to slim down the movie up into a more exciting and mysterious work. After two years, my love for the teen drama that had helped define my high school years disintegrated, and I found other movies to take its place.
I have a point, and will get to it now: Donnie Darko turns 15 this year, and Arrow Films is celebrating by releasing 4K restorations of both the theatrical and director’s cuts in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, San Francisco, and El Paso this month. I will be seeing the theatrical version and recommend that you do the same. I am also going to politely ask that Jezebel’s Deputy Editor Kate Dries, who has somehow never seen it, to do the same.