Movie Mini-Review: Donnie Darko (2001)


Donnie Darko stands alone: an edgy, sophisticated science-fiction movie that mixes time travel and nightmarish visions with family drama and `80s nostalgia. The narrative is tangled and often hard to follow, but essentially boils down to one boy’s effort to prevent future tragedy by heeding the advice of a rabbit-masked nihilist. The director’s cut of the movie adds twenty minutes of material that connects the dots, but the more the movie tries to explain its internal mechanism, the less provocative it becomes. Mystery is a big part of Donnie‘s charm. For that reason, stick with the theatrical cut.

The cast is tremendous, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives an Oscar-worthy performance balancing Donnie’s sweetness with his rage, his intelligence with his baser instincts, and his fear with his heroism. Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell (Passion Fish, Dances with Wolves) gives a beautiful supporting performance as Donnie’s mother. Michael Andrews provides a sparse but incredibly effective musical score where a few taps on the piano convey all the mystery and love in the universe. He also brilliantly adapts a heart-breaking rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”. Toss in a surprisingly accomplished sense of visual style from first-time director Richard Kelly, and the iconic bunny mask, and you have yourself a bonafide cult movie phenomenon.

The tremendous supporting cast includes Holmes Osborne, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Drew Barrymore (who also helped get the movie made).

Rating: 4.25/5 ★★★★¼ 


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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