Movie Review

Donnie Darko (2001)

MPAA Rating: R
Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, ... | THE 'DARKO' AGES Barrymore gives Gyllenhaal a little life instruction
Image credit: Donnie Darko: Dale Robinette
THE 'DARKO' AGES Barrymore gives Gyllenhaal a little life instruction
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Limited Release: Oct 26, 2001; Rated: R; Length: 122 Minutes; Genres: Drama, Sci-fi and Fantasy; With: Jake Gyllenhaal; Distributor: Newmarket Capital Group

The title character in Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly's gangly, shape-shifting psychodrama is succinctly named: ''Donnie'' evokes all the American innocence we expect in a Spielbergian suburban universe, circa 1988. ''Darko'' represents all that infests the tortured head of this particular sullen boy, a schizophrenic teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) flailing and failing to find relief amid the ''normal'' crises of adolescence. The trouble Donnie causes, then, is partly about being a regular misfit, and partly about hearing voices in his head from a man-size rabbit with a twisted-mask face. (This bad bunny is nothing like the invisible hopper from ''Harvey.'') Kelly, the 26-year-old writer-director of this excitingly original indie vision, shares more artistically with Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson than he does with Spielberg or John Hughes, but the point is, he's out on his own here. He swings big -- with flair. The terrific ensemble cast includes Mary McDonnell as Donnie's mother, Maggie Gyllenhaal (sibling of Jake) as his sister, the serenely grave Jena Malone as his girlfriend, and, just right in the role of a cool lit teacher, Drew Barrymore, who was also hip to produce such a marvelous, messed-up antidote to the sitcom alienation of ''American Beauty.''

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Originally posted Nov 02, 2001 Published in issue #624 Nov 09, 2001 Order article reprints