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Donnie Darko

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Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Katharine Ross, Mary McDonnell, Alex Greenwald, Holmes Osborne, Patrick Swayze Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Duval
Directed/written by: Richard Kelly
Rated: R

Donnie Darko is a brilliant, intelligent, film that intrigues you from the very first frame and has you smiling contentedly well past the last! Writer/director Richard Kelly has created a Twilight Zone-esque drug-free acid trip of a rollercoaster trip for your mind…

Donnie Darko is very much like a Dali painting on film. We visit a surreal world that takes a look at what each of us holds to be the truth about our destinies. Kelly's script, which is relentlessly entertaining, catapults you towards the plot which leaves you with a sense of awe.

Not that you're confused with what you've experienced, but amazed at the tale's simplicity that's been orchestrated with such extreme depth.

We meet Donnie Darko (Jake - I really don't want to talk about Bubble Boy…I was in October Sky too" Gyllenhaal), asleep in the middle of a road in his hometown. He's a sleepwalking sixteen year old semi-psychotic individual that wanders about in the middle of the night accompanied with his new imaginary friend Frank (Alex Greenwald) a man in a six foot rabbit costume. Get visions of nice and fluffy imaginary six foot rabbit friend Harvey right out of your head. This rabbit looks rabid.

Frank, the rabbit, is an almost evil fellow, plainly otherworldly. He wakes Donnie and tells him of the world's upcoming demise in about twenty-eight days. While they discuss Armageddon in the road, Donnie's house is struck by a stray jet engine. Had Donnie been in his room he certainly would be dead. Donnie now trusts the creepy rabbit and listens to his demands and hints of the future...Frank orders Donnie to trash some private property, flood a school and chat with a local old lady known as Grandma Death about time travel and portals on Earth. And you thought your puberty was hard!

Donnie tries to keep his visions in check; he visits with a psychiatrist (the too little seen of late Katherine Ross) and tells her about his visions as best he can. The visions include the menacing rabbit of course, but also strange liquid beings that protrude from friends and family and guide their bodies, and he confides to the psychiatrist about his real life new girlfriend from school as well as a couple of confessions to some pretty delinquent behavior. As each scene unravels we begin to question Donnie's sanity a little bit more. Is he just mad or a man with some kind of message?

Donnie's a strange fellow and his story matches his persona frame for frame. You can't look away as you slowly piece together what all this craziness means. The soundtrack is filled with memorable eighties tunes ( I know an oxymoron) each song accentuating the scene its played with.

One of Darko's producers is Drew Barrymore, and her Flower Productions. Drew's a genius when it comes to producing, and it seems she's got the eye for new talent. She also has a small pivotal role as Donnie's English teacher, and does a gracious job.

Jake Gyllenhaal is adorable as Donnie Darko. His Bubble Boy flick-o-poo faux pas aside, he's an actor emerging and proving himself to be a broad ranged chap. Super swell on the retina, and not sixteen at all gals! Jake plays Donnie with a cool eerie smirk and a loaded sexual tension found in all teenagers. As Donnie, Jake also got a chance to play on screen with his real-life older sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Donnie's older sister. The chemistry was fantastic, comfortable and brought a grounded affect to a spectacularly out-there script.

Donnie's mom Rose, played by Mary McDonnell, is directed to perfection. A deceptively blank character, that in reality, has more going on behind her eyes than most non - celluloid folks walking around with us.

Donnie Darko is a fantastically dark comedy; the laughs are subtle but good-n-plenty. The funniest character is in the hands of Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham, that -all-too-
recognizable - charlatan that preys upon the weaker minded in our flocks, convincing them of his own twisted religion and self healing methods; all available on cassette and vhs with three monthly installments—of course. Jim's one of those noninformational informational chaps that talks in circles until he's convinced you to 1. buy the tape 2. buy the book 3. and your life will be so much better so much faster thanks to number 1. and 2..

Donnie Darko is utterly brilliant. Each character we are introduced to is mesmerizingly, plain but placed within Kelly's script, which is often sci-fi bordering on absurd, morph into three dimensional beings that may be slipping into the fourth dimension— if that makes any sense at all. Darko will require some thought to thoroughly enjoy, so leave your action-packed-blow-'em-up Schwatrzenwillisvandammestallone fans home and take a cerebral trip to the theater.

Snack recommendation: Chocolate Bunnies and milk


 

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