November 7, 2002

Cornell Cinema: Donnie Darko

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Oh shit, the rabbit’s after me — better write quick. If I don’t manage to finish this review, rest assured that it’s because Frank the giant rabbit is after me. You see, I just finished watching this movie Donnie Darko, and I’m a little creeped out by the bunny.

Donnie Darko is the first film of writer/director Richard Kelly, and it’s a hell of an audacious debut. Tackling issues of dysfunctional youth, the essential lameness of suburban life, and the philosophy of a meaningful existence, this movie packs a lot of substance into a story about a schizophrenic kid who sees visions of a guy in a bunny suit and skull mask.

The title character, played brilliantly by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a disturbed young man struggling in the confines of an upper-middle-class existence too mundane and enclosed for his inquisitive mind. Gyllenhaal creates a nuanced and complicated character right before our eyes, as capable of being charming, insightful, and a compelling underdog to root for as he is of acting all twitchy and gleefully violent.

Donnie’s hallucinations — Frank the rabbit, the streams of ectoplasm he sees coming from people’s chest — are connected to his growing fascination with time travel and his conviction that the world will end within 28 days. (Hey, what was that outside? Claws on the window? Brrrr it got cold in here