Donnie Darko

Lot of buzz about this one; people either seemed to think it was the coolest thing around or an example of overcleverness.

There’s a fine line between clever and stupid, as the saying goes, and Donnie Darko doesn’t cross that line – it stays firmly on the side of stupid. Oh, it thinks it’s clever, but it outsmarts itself, dissolving instead into a puddle of drivel.

Basic story is that Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a high schooler with some awesomely awful visions; he keeps seeing an evil mutant bunny rabbit who tells him to commit acts of violence and that the world’s ending in 28 days. You know, your garden variety doom-and-gloom stuff. Donnie doesn’t know how to deal with these horrendous visions, so his family sends him to a psychiatrist.

in a very early scene, one of Donnie’s acting-out episodes (or is it sleepwalking) finds him outside the house in the middle of the night. Suddenly, a plane engine crashes into his house, landing in his bedroom. No one’s hurt, but it’s the first of several weird tragedies to befall him and his family. Donnie thinks it’s a sign.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (who, as you might surmise from her name, is Jake’s sister in real life) plays his older sister here, and she’s fantastic in the few scenes she’s in. Mary McDonnell plays their mom. Some guy and some girl play the father and the younger sister, respectively; neither made an impression on me. Jena Malone plays Donnie’s new girlfriend. Drew Barrymore has a thankfully small role as a teacher. Even Patrick Swayze shows up.

Time travel, philosophy, nihilism, evil clowns, evil bunny rabbits, and funky coincidences all play roles. Absurdity upon absurdity is heaped onto the steaming pile of plot with the apparent intent to confuse and obfuscate. Weirdness does not cleverness equal, sadly. J. Gyllenhaal is miscast; he looks too pure and innocent.



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