Donnie Darko (2001) is one of those movies that wasn’t a hit when it first came out with either regular viewers or critics but which has gradually gained a strong following.
I think that at first viewers didn’t know what to make about a young man seeing visions of someone in a demonic bunny suit prophesizing the end of the world (in fact giving an exact date) and giving the young man specific instructions on what he’s supposed to do about it. It’s not an easy film to pin down. It has elements of comedy, drama (including coming of age films), science fiction, horror, and psychological thrillers. Happily the elements all feel like they belong together in this movie.
I finally saw it for the first time a couple months ago (Director’s Cut) and the movie has really stuck with me. Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie commends this movie, but the supporting cast (particularly Patrick Swayne) is mostly top notch as well. Even Seth Rogen in a tiny role plays it perfectly straight. The supernatural elements work because the human aspects are so well developed. For example, when Donnie’s father learns that Donnie has called a teacher who deserved it a bad name, he tries to act disapproving but can’t quite hide the fact that he agrees with Donnie’s assessment of the teacher.
I don’t want to write much more about the film because it’s a story that really needs to be discovered as it unfolds. I will say it’s one of the great films of the 2000s. Any film with a guy in a demonic looking bunny suit has me in its corner to start with, but this film keeps me in its corner and won’t let go.