96. "Donnie Darko"
Return to favorite films list
Richard Kelly's audacious directorial debut shouldn't work, and upon its
initial theatrical release in the wake of 9/11, it didn't, drawing in a meager
audience at best. "Donnie Darko" has subsequently earned a cult following as
both a midnight favorite and a uniquely demented coming-of-age tale. For those
unfamiliar, Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled
Virginia teen who finds himself saved from free-falling jet debris by visions of
a man-sized rabbit, who warns Donnie of the looming apocalypse.
Find: Watch clips from 'Donnie Darko'
Even if that ominous countdown didn't offer a freaky hook for the curious
viewer, Kelly's evocation of both the late '80s and one's late teens is spot-on,
easily weaving in our disaffected protagonist's frequently funny interactions
with his concerned-yet-ineffective parents (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne),
combative teachers (Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Beth
Grant), scummy self-help gurus (Patrick Swayze), troublemaking peers
(Alex Greenwald and Seth Rogen) and the slightly damaged
girl next door (Jena Malone). Beyond its dizzying time-travel concept,
absolutely ace ensemble and a vital commitment to Sparkle Motion, "Darko" digs
into the universal dichotomies that define us: the correlation between love and
fear, the differences between political parties, the fine line between life and
death, the bridge between adolescence and adulthood, the ties between the past
and the future, and the decisions that separate solitude from salvation. —
(Jake Gyllenhaal in "Donnie Darko"/Newmarket