Donnie Darko (2001)

(On DVD, January 2004) While I rather enjoyed this film, I’m not as enthusiastic about it than some of my esteemed fellow critics specializing in SF/Fantasy films. The main reason being that for all of its science-fictional trappings, Donnie Darko remains a work of fantasy, not speculative science fiction. The deliberately weird ending makes sort of a superficial sense, but doesn’t actually end up completing the causal loop suggested by the film’s fascination with time-travel. Still, even with that sour taste in mouth, there’s a lot to recommend here, from the tortured performance of Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous protagonist to the delightfully twisted visuals (have you ever seen an uglier rabbit?), darkly funny passages and acerbic dialogues. (Heck, even Drew Barrymore looks positively attractive in her goth intellectual role) It’s almost constantly interesting, even though the interest stems from the mystery and the mystery is simply sidelined at the end to make place for a weepy finale that is supposed to make everything seems all that much more significant. Eh. At least the rest of the film works well. The DVD contains a bunch of extras that were simply too numerous to review before it was time to return it. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

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