To continue the Donnie Darko
discussion, the complexity of the characters is one of the best things about the film, and it was too this fact that I was alluding to when I referred to Donnie Darko
as the suburban film that Todd Solondz wishes he could make on the NYT Forums. It takes the familiar tropes of suburban satires, the conformity, the repression, and the hypocrisy, and examines them through complex characters, unlike, for example Storytelling
, which resorts to one dimensional caricatures. Even the two pointed targets of Kelly's satire, the judgemental and repressed gym teacher, and Patrick Swayze's well tanned, stylishly dressed, and perfectly coifed New Age guru are not really caricatures (only the cocaine-snorting, mullet haired bully could be fairly called one dimensional), especially since we are privy to not only the effects on Donnie and the other high school children (I just want to point out the two terrific scenes between Donnie and Gretchen, when she seeks solace from her troubles in intimacy with Donnie; that hunger and need for simple human contact and love is symptomatic of the problems of suburban existence), but also the psychic costs wrought by their own repression.
Patrick Swayze's character is an interesting character, and I took him to be a symbolization of a certain US President from the 1980s. I thought the character was genuinely genial and earnest; he actually thinks he is helping people, including himself, but all he is doing is spewing empty rhetoric and pigeonholing complex experiences into "Love" and "Fear." But all his posturing doesn't help the central sickness of his soul, it just covers it up with all style and no substance. And no, I am not suggesting that Ronald Reagan was a child pornographer, though he too has skeletons in his closet (played a pretty good drunk in Dark Victory
The shrill gym teacher acolyte reminds me of so many Republicans who probably couldn't operate if they did not have Reagan, or his people around to think for them. This character is the closet to a cartoon, but when Swayze's arrest, her whole world becomes unglued. The acting of the actress was very effective, IMO, what could have been a simple comeuppance, is transformed into an almost disturbing display of denial, repression, and confusion. She is pathetic, but she gained a measure of my sympathy.