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Donnie Darko

Updated on March 30th, 2019

A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.

Troubled adolescent Donnie Darko receives a disturbing vision that the world will end in twenty-eight days. With the help of various characters, including a six-foot rabbit called Frank, he slowly discovers the mysterious physical and metaphysical laws that govern his life and that will lead up to the destruction of the universe.

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Movie Reviews: “Donnie Darko

Movie Review: Entertainment Weekly

Donnie Darko is a marvelous, messed-up antidote to the sitcom alienation of ”American Beauty,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a sullen, schizophrenic teenager who hears voices in his head from a man-size rabbit with a twisted-mask face. Writer-director Richard Kelly offers an original indie vision.

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Movie Review: San Francisco Chronicle

If this movie ever figured out what it wanted to be when it grows up, it would be a terrific one. It starts out as a suburban satire, with a right-on, quizzical performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled teenager who seems to know more than he lets on. It turns into a psychological drama with an amazing twist — a jet engine plunges into the boy’s bedroom. Then it takes a wild leap into the unknown with a sci-fi foray into “worm holes” in the universe, and time travel that doubles back on itself.
Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) is in therapy and probably overmedicated, but with Katharine Ross (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) as his shrink, you can’t be too sure. Anyway, Donnie has an imaginary friend named Frank who looks like a rabbit and communicates with him from the other side of a watery plane.

The movie, set during final month of the Dukakis-Bush campaign of 1988, is filled with established performers like Ross in supporting roles. Drew Barrymore is a cool English teacher, and Patrick Swayze an uncool TV motivational huckster. Mary McDonnell (“Dances With Wolves”) is Donnie’s mother, who delivers the movie’s best line. “How does it feel to have a wacko for a son?” Donnie asks. “It feels wonderful,” she replies.

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Movie Review: Newcity

The movie became more of a legend in later formats, including a dreadful-looking DVD release in 2004 that was accompanied by a director’s cut that filled in more blanks than strictly necessary. It’s a measure of the fragility of the very existence of recent independently made movies that a 4K digital restoration is necessary, but also a bold, bright thing on a big screen. (I previewed the Blu-ray, with mucho extras, on a fairly large flatscreen; it’s also available now.)

There are so many elements that haunt memories of past viewings of the movie, not limited to the youthful earnestness of Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone and even Drew Barrymore, and the gleeful cheesy evil of Patrick Swayze’s bent evangelist character. The pre-medicated swings of Donnie’s moods seethe in Gyllenhaal’s intent performance, filled with glorious angst, as a teen terrorist who believes he may be a savior. “If John Hughes had tried to make ‘Magnolia’ after reading a lot of Philip K. Dick while very high, the result wouldn’t have been one-tenth as good as ‘Donnie Darko,’” I wrote on its first release.

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