Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko ★★★★½

Watched as part of my "100 Movies to See Before You Die" Challenge.

#15 of 100

Despite its angsty reputation due to some of its most die-hard fans, Donnie Darko is still one of the best cult classics of its decade. Ethereal, ambiguous, and haunting, it leads the viewer through a labyrinthine story, which, though you eventually find your way out, has so much that lies unseen down dark corridors that require more than one viewing to explore. I've only seen this film twice, and both times it has resonated with me. The first time as an angsty teenager, and this is the kind of stuff that angsty teenagers love. The second, as a lover of film with an appreciation for good film making and masterful storytelling. What I've enjoyed most about Donnie Darko, both times I've watched it, is the style. It's a kind of blend of many genres, but it feels most like an 80's film with all its tropes and archetypes that has been dipped in surrealism. The cinematography, the score, the setting, all create an evocative, intangible dreamscape which the viewer drifts through nudged in the right direction by Richard Kelly.

The cast works really well, delivering plenty of believable character chemistry. I'm not a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, but I would call this his best performance period. He perfectly embodies the troubled, disturbed, schizophrenic teen. Patrick Swayze has an excellent role as a perfectly despicable asshole, and there's even a weird, yet still enjoyable appearance from Seth Rogen. Each an every actor nails their respective performances, but it helps that they're working with an excellent script.

Donnie Darko is a cerebral, dark experience but one I've enjoyed both times, and it's a film I plan to come back to to try to discover more of its secrets.

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