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Customer Review

on September 19, 2003
Hollywood's steady downfall into high-priced visual theatrics and recycled storylines with wittless characters has done nothing good except reestablish my faith in the underdog. "Donnie Darko" in this case, is one of those underdogs - a completely morbid and fulfilling storyline, with dazzling presentation and a cast of amazing actors playing multi-layered characters.
The story revolves around the charismatic, wayward teenager, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal). This troubled teen is the black sheep of his middle-class family, already having trouble with law for stealing a car and attending psycho-therapy sessions to handle his sleepwalking. Only after a brief introduction into his life, does the movie immediately dive into the action - in a dream, Donnie is beckoned out of his house by an evil (almost satanic) looking man-sized bunny, Frank. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days - the 28th day being Halloween. Back in reality, a jet-plane engine has fallen from the sky and crashed in Donnie's bedroom - Donnie survives because he had been sleepwalking. Frank becomes a regular figure in Donnie's dreams and delusions - coercing him to commit random acts of vandalism and arson. In the meantime, the world around Donnie Darko seems embedded with strange characters, mind-bending encounters and philosphical if not humorously poignant conversations. Among these are are Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze), the self-help guru, his highschool teachers: (Noah Wyle) - who is obsessed with the ideas of time travel - and (Drew Barrymore) who is disillusioned with the education system feeding into Jim Cunnigham , Grandma Death -a prophet of some sorts and Gretchen (Jena Malone), Donnie's new girlfriend and another troubled teen, who's mother is hiding out from an abusive ex-husband. As doomsday approaches, Donnie's visits from Frank the evil bunny become more frequent, as he points out the relivance of time travel in his visits into Donnie's psyche. Soon, Donnie realizes that many of his encounters with Frank, leave very real impacts on those around him. (Spoiler: For instance, Frank tells Donnie to burn down Jim Cunningham's house, that reveals a child pornography ring in his basement).
All events and characters lead Donnie down to his final day, where he realizes that certain events have to take place and some people must suffer in order for others to survive.
"Donnie Darko" is magnificant in keeping one's interest, keeping its audience in suspense and sometimes in laughter. Jake Gyllenhaal does a superb job of playing Donnie as a dark confused teenager in search of understanding and conscious, with the sexiness of Tobey Maguire but with a personality. The dynamics of family make this story seem very real and close to home, as we are not only drawn to the supernatural, but to the plight of Donnie's mother, who is desperate to guide and understand her son.
The basic story, visual effects and music are simple and play well off each other. However, the much greater story and concept is certainly hard to understand and up for interpretation. With time travel being a major theme, one might need to watch through the movie two or three times to finally have an idea of what actually happened in what order. The ending (no spoiler, sorry!) can leave one with the questions: what just happened?... What did he accomplish? But the movie has enough of an impact and plain entertainment value, that I doubt anyone will complain about watching it over again.
This movie is superb for a drinking games, Halloween parties or just sitting back and watching one stormy evening. If you haven't seen it yet - you're missing out. One day, film makers will try to imitate the magical properties that "Donnie Darko" has captured in about two hours.
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